Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mother Nature has the last word

I haven’t posted anything on the garden in a while because there’s not much going on.  The early October frosts mostly finished off the warm weather crops.  There were two frosts, both of them light, and some of the plants hung in there a while but are done now.  Beans and okra are out of the beds, the butternut squash are hanging on the trellis but the plant is dead, the tomatoes are ripening too slow and the rot gets most of them.  Only the peppers made it through, and it looks like I can pick another batch of anchos for drying.

Needless to say, but if we hadn’t had those two frosts I’d still be getting beans, okra and tomatoes.  It’s been warmer than normal since then and there’s no frost likely until this weekend.     

There’s still a bed of cabbage crops and several rows of carrots.  The beds only get 4-5 hours of sunlight on a clear day now, with the woods coming into play in the morning and evening.  With a little luck I’ll get some spinach, chinese cabbage, tatsoi and kohlrabi.  And more brussells sprouts.  There’s a half bed of parsnips waiting for some real cold weather before they are dug up. 

Fall is very nice in these parts.  One of my favorite roads is Low Gap Road, which cuts through a state forest.  The drive to the hiking trails goes through some bucolic countryside, with hay fields and pastures walled in by hills in multicolor.  There’s a sense of going back in time when I go down this road.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Where to Begin

Where to begin?  I get more and more dismayed by the current state of politics, and by extension, the state of this country. 

In my last post I said that Mitt Romney is a liar.  That may sound like a strong statement, maybe a little hyperbolic.  I’ll be more explicit:  Romney is a liar on a level that I have not seen before in politics.  Lying seems to come natural to this man.  His egocentricity is on full display when he lies.  It’s an expression of his utter contempt for people, a belief on his part that he can say anything to the rest of us because he believes we are inferior.  The flip side of the lying are his reversals of position.  He was for something before he was against it but now he is for it again.  This is yet another expression of his arrogance, an attitude that he has no obligation to state what his policy is and be consistent.  All politicians dodge and shift, but few of them completely reverse their policy positions to pander to their audience.

Romney actually believes a lot of the nonsense that he says, because much of what he says is a restatement of the same claims that are made in the conservative media.  His audience is already primed by the constant repetition of untruths in the rightwing echo chamber, a repetition that ultimately creates an alternate universe that people dwell in.  This is how Romney stepped in a gigantic pile in the second debate when he asserted that Obama took two weeks to call the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.  Ignoring for a minute the asininity of a talking point that demands a president use the words and phrases it chooses, here’s my take.

In the debate Romney’s two weeks assertion was a restatement of what had been said many times by conservatives.  It was factually wrong and the video of the conference in the Rose Garden clearly shows that.  You can spin it six ways to Sunday but that’s what he said the day after the attack with the Secretary of State at his side.  Now some conservative pundits are claiming that Obama was talking about something else, apparently because he did not use the syntax that they required.  Oh Puhlease.  How many grammatical knots do you have to twist yourself into to make one thing into something else?    

The Republicans are now clutching their pearls in righteous outrage.  They want to know why the president took so long to clarify that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was a coordinated attack not the acts of an angry mob.  They want to know why there was not more security in place.  The investigation by Darrell Issa’s committee is underway.  Answers must be found.  This may seem perfectly reasonable, but there’s more to it than that.  So here’s a little background.

Qahdaffi’s despotic regime in Libya was overthrown with the help of US and European air support, but without US troops on the ground.  That’s not to say there were no CIA or Special Forces there doing covert work.  Libya is essentially a new nation that is trying to establish a stable government.  There are a lot of competing factions vying for power.  The situation is dynamic.  It’s in the interest of the US to see that a stable government friendly to us is established, but without the presence of our troops on the ground.  Lord knows we don’t need to have our military occupy yet another Middle East country.

Given the instability in Libya, you can’t expect a normal diplomatic structure to be in place.  I don’t know why the ambassador was staying in Benghazi that day.  The main embassy is in Tripoli and this was a secondary consulate.  We now know that one of the two buildings in Benghazi was a CIA station.  That information was made public inadvertently during one of Issa’s public hearings on the incident.  It’s likely that the CIA was the security force at that consulate. 

Bottom line, there’s a lot that we don’t know and won’t know because much of this country’s activities there take place covertly.  It’s not a simple case of do you send more security people to an embassy because a lot is happening under the radar. 

Holding public investigations into such events has been a place that congress in the past has been reluctant to go because they can expose covert operations and endanger lives.  The Issa investigation chose to hold televised hearings, undoubtedly for their political effect.  Those hearings have so far revealed that a consulate building was a CIA post.  They have also outed a number of Libyans who support us and shared information with us, putting these people at risk.  The information is now out there for all to see.     

Now the Republicans can press on with this attack and I expect that they will.  They know the administration is in a bind because they can’t say too much without compromising activities in Libya, but if it holds back information it will be accused of a coverup.  In all this charade I ask myself, would a Republican president have handled the Libyan attacks any differently?  And the answer is probably not. 

Years ago a presidential candidate would not have tried to exploit this tragedy for political gain, recognizing the potential damage in doing so.  It was a line that was not crossed, and that is why Romney was condemned by old school Republicans as well as Democrats when he made his accusatory statement the day after the attacks.

We can have the larger debate whether this country should engage in covert activities all over the world.  Indeed we can have the debate whether this country should try to act as the world’s policeman, whether we need hundreds of military bases in every corner of the world, whether we should be engaging in wars to protect access to resources and if drone strikes are acceptable.  But if covert activities are what we are doing in Libya, then we should not have public rhetoric that puts our people over there at risk. 

What we get instead is a faux debate,  a political witch hunt that can jeopardize Americans overseas.  Anything to get elected, to get back in power.  Nothing is off the table for these people.  I’m not happy with either political party.  I think they are both irredeemably corrupt and beholden to big money.  But it is the Republican party that has truly gone off the rails in the last few years.  It seems there is no action, no statement that is too extreme if there is a potential political reward for it.  There is no claim by a rightwing pundit that is too batshit crazy to be uttered, in fact repeated again and again.  In the words of former GOP operative the Republican party is now more like an “apocalyptic cult” than a political party.

Here’s a quote from a blogger called Meteor Blades that sums up the Romney stump speeches on foreign policy. 

Romney said the president "went around at the beginning of his term and apologized for America around the world, it made us just heartsick." Never happened. A lie. "The president is planning on cutting $1 trillion out of military spending." A lie. Romney said President Obama "went before the United Nations" and "said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip." A lie. Romney said, "[T]his president should have put in place crippling sanctions against Iran, he did not." A lie. Romney said Obama "failed to communicate that military options are on the table" with regards to Iran's nuclear program. A lie. Romney said  Syria is Iran's "route to the sea." A lie, and a dumb one since Iran doesn't share a border with Syria and has more than a thousand miles of its own coastline. Romney said Obama "decided to give Russia their number one foreign policy objective—removal of our missile defense sites from Eastern Europe—and got nothing in return." A lie. Romney said: "You know how many trade agreements this president has negotiated? Zero." A lie. 

Is a lie about your opponent a personal attack?  Does pointing out that Romney is not telling the truth constitute a personal attack?  It’s a bizarre political universe we now live in.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mitt Romney is a fabricator

Let me say first that I don’t like politicians.  When one of our elected officials of either party is on the TV I usually change the channel.  I read the news on the Internet, where I can read transcripts of what was said on television.  That way I don’t have to watch these people, and reading what they say tells me more about them.

The inevitable conclusion I have reached is this: Mitt Romney is a pathological liar.  In fact one has to wonder if this man even knows that he is lying.  He has a salesmans approach to campaigning – say anything to close the deal, even if what he says is a flat out contradiction of what he said a few days or weeks ago.  During the primary debates Jon Huntsman described Romney as a “perfectly lubricated weathervane,” a politician who will point in whatever direction the political winds are blowing at the moment. 

Yes all politicians distort, they stretch the truth, they leave out essential details that can change an argument, they take things out of context.  That is nothing new.  Mitt Romney treads on ground where the vast majority of politicians are reluctant to go.  He makes up things without even the most tenuous association with facts.

One example.  A Romney ad claimed that the president had a plan for dropping the work requirement for welfare.  “Under Obama's plan you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check."  It’s a lie.  The administration agreed to allow some states to develop their own plans for placing welfare recipients in jobs, per the request of governors of those states, most of them Republican.  Romney’s claim that welfare requirements have been waived is a lie cut out of new cloth. 

Paul Waldman does research on political ads and has followed every campaign since 1952.  He says  “I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one.”

A little background here.  Mitt Romney was a moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts.  He worked with Ted Kennedy to develop a public health care plan for the state, a plan that is strikingly similar to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  In order to make himself more palatable to the Republican base, which in this day and age has become a group of rabid ideologues, Mitt reinvented himself as a “severe conservative.”  The party’s base never really believed that Mitt had truly seen their light .  Mitt won the nomination by 1) having better funded SuperPacs that outspent the other candidates 2) having the backing of the power brokers in the party (Rove) and 3) because the other candidates were more deeply flawed.

Now it’s time for Mitt to shake up the Etch a Sketch and reinvent himself once again, which he did in the last debate.  He said earlier he would repeal Dodd-Frank, all of it, because you can’t impose those awful burdensome regulations on our noble lords of finance, regulations that impair their magical job-creating abilities, can you?  But in the first debate with Obama he found nuance.  There are parts of Dodd-Frank that make sense said the new moderate Mitt.  Which parts?  He’ll tell you later.

The only thing that can be said conclusively about Mitt Romney’s beliefs is that we have no clue what they are.  He is a cipher, a candidate who has been on both sides of every issue so many times that you cannot get through the fog and discover where he stands from what he says.   He wants to be all things to all people, a perfect chameleon.  It seems that he doesn’t know or care that he contradicts himself repeatedly, it’s all just part of closing a business deal.

Take taxes.  Mitt says he will cut income taxes by 20% across the board.  The loss in revenue, estimated at almost $5 trillion, will be made up by closing deductions.  High income earners will not pay less or more he says.  According to Mitt the new tax structure will be revenue neutral, that is generate as much revenue as the old structure.  This begs the question, if the tax revenue does not change then what does changing the structure actually accomplish?  Apparently this is too much wonky detail for Mitt to burden us poor commonfolk with, but never fear, we will find out once he is in the Oval Office. 

What deductions does Mitt plan to eliminate to make up for the lost revenue?  He won’t say.  That’s right he won’t tell us.  Apparently we the people are on a need to know basis, and we don’t need to know.  Just trust him, we’ll find out after he’s elected.  Meanwhile some smart people tried crunching the numbers to see if you really did not lose $5 trillion in revenue over ten years and they found out that you can’t make two plus two equal five in any standard mathematical framework.  Unless you made some really unlikely assumptions in the genre of “then a miracle occurs.”  So when the $5 trillion dollar loss in revenue issue came up during the debate, Mitt deftly handled that by calling Obama a liar for pointing out that a tax reduction results in reduced revenue.  He won the debate by trying to make it a “I know what you are but what am I?” spitting match.  

That brings me to the flip side of Mitt’s blatant lying.  That’s in essence saying nothing at all, just making  hand-waving allusions with no specifics, a smokescreen to cover one’s real strategies.   Trust us they say, we’ll flesh out the details once in power.  Mitt Romney is emblematic of today’s financial royalty, a businessman who used every gimmickry financial invention to amass millions, and had no qualms about taking advantage of tax loopholes like the carried interest exemption to pay lower tax rates than most middle class workers.  This is a guy whose business model was to buy a company with other people’s money, saddle it with huge fees (a Bain innovation), offshore jobs when possible, take advantage of a capital gains tax loophole to pay a very low tax on gains made with other people’s money, hide his money in offshore tax havens and somehow amass $100 million in his IRA.  And you might wonder why he doesn’t want to release any more tax returns?

At one point in the first debate Mitt said this: “Look,the reason I’m in this race is because there are people who are really hurting in this country.”   If anyone believes that this guy actually gives one fig about the number of unemployed Americans, I’ve got a million dollars in a Nigerian bank account but first I need you to send me ten thousand dollars then we can both get rich. . .  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday October 8

What a year.  80 degrees in March, a week of 100+ degree temps in July, drought, now November weather in September and October.  It was only a matter of time until an early frost, and this morning its time had come.  The butternut squash had the worst of it.  This is the plant that I seeded in early August after the first plant died.   Despite the frost predicitions I decided to leave the three butternuts on the vine since they were not quite ripe.  It was a light frost and the fruits are probably OK but the leaves don’t look like they will recover.  I’ll leave them on the vine until another frost is likely.

The tomatoes and peppers handled it the best, with only some of the younger shoots affected.  Both plants have been producing little the last few weeks.  Last night I picked any tomatoes that had a red blush on them, but it looks like some more will ripen if there is more sunshine.

The beans were damaged too.  This picture was taken this morning.  At mid day a second look makes me think they are mostly a loss.  I’ve gotten almost 20 pounds of snap beans this year so I can’t complain.

I picked the ripe peppers last night.  Most of these are anchos.  They were put in the dehydrator overnight.  There are many more green anchos on the plant but they just haven’t ripened in this cool weather.

These are the Supersonic tomatoes that I picked last night.  They too have been very slow to ripen and they show it – lots of cracks and blemishes.

These are beans that I picked on Saturday.  From left to right:  Provider, Kentucky Wonder, and Roma II. 

And brussel sprouts.  I probably should have picked some of the lower buds some time ago since they were showing some rot in the outer leaves.  They are supposed to be better after a frost so this morning I picked some.  After the brown stuff is removed they taste fine.   Nice to know there are lots more where these came from.

Totals:  Beans 2 lb 4 oz, okra 3 oz, tomato 1 lb 2 oz, peppers 12 oz, brussell’s sprouts 1 lb 10 oz.  For the week 5.9 lbs.  For the year 157 lb.    

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday October 1

We are into fall.  No turning back now, the days are shorter and cooler.  The trees are turning earlier than normal, the summer’s heat and draught followed by a cool September are hastening the change. 
Except for beans and the last planting of cabbage crops the plants have slowed down a lot.  There’s been a few sunny days to keep things moving along.  These bush Romas are fantastic.  They are Roma II’s from Park Seed.  They markedly out produce the older Roma cultivars that I planted last year.  Big meaty beans with great flavor.  To date I’ve picked 17 pounds of green beans and put six quarts in the freezer.  

Here’s a real bonus.  I seeded this cauliflower (Burpee’s Summer Harvest) indoors on April 17 and set it into the bed on May 8.  The plant stopped growing during the heat wave in July, but when the weather cooled in mid August it resumed growth.  About 10 days ago it started forming a head, and this morning I picked it.  In late July I had picked an earlier cauliflower in the middle of the heat wave.  It weighed half a pound and was a little rubbery.  Not this head.  It’s over one and a half pounds and the head is dense and crisp.  Next year I'll have to think about planting cauliflower to mature in September. 

Some of this cauliflower will be pickled.  I made refrigerator pickled okra and hot peppers a few weeks ago and finished off three jars already.  Might as well reuse the pickling sauce with the cauliflower.  The peppers were too hot to eat and are still in the pickling sauce, so they should give some heat to the cauliflower.
Some more peppers.  The orange peppers are a Quad (????) sweet pepper.  I forgot to write the name of the pepper and the vendor at the farmer’s market just wrote “Quad” on the label.  The other pepper is a variety developed by the same vendor.  It’s very compact and is more suited to container growing. 

More red okra.  The cool weather has really slowed this down but I’m hoping to get a few more pods.  Initially I did not like this okra because it was hard to know when to pick it and the pods varied in size.  I’ve learned to pick the pods by color not size.  When the color starts to pale the pod is getting woody.  It’s best picked when the pods are shiny and intensely red.   Next year I plan to grow this okra in containers and grow a full-size okra in the beds.

No tomatoes this week but there are still plenty on the vine.  Just need some more sunny days.
Totals:  Beans 3 lb 6 oz, okra 6 oz, peppers 11 oz and cauliflower 1 lb 9 oz.  For the week 6 lbs.  For the year 151 lbs.