Red Herring Anyone

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As a semi-retired person the current economic environment has made it very hard to get any kind of return on my money and I would like to see interest rates begin to go up sometime soon. With interest rates at virtually zero, money market accounts and certificates of deposit are paying close to nothing at all.

During the coming week, the Federal Reserve as this article points out is going to announce plans to print more money (QE2) in a effort to boost the economy, create jobs, avoid deflation and thus keep interest rates low. How much more money the fed is going to print has yet to be determined.

The thing I found quite interesting about this article is the writers premise that he believes the “true purpose of QE2 is not to do what’s mentioned above, but to disquise the decreasing ability of the treasury to finance its debts because global demand for our debt is falling.”

Lets face it, we all know that sometime in the future (if not already) China is probably going to scale back their purchases of our debt and when that does happen as the author says “if the truth be known a real panic would ensue”. 

One of the amendments added by independent Bernie Sanders from Vermont, to the Wall Street Reform Bill passed earlier this year, was to have the General Accounting Office audit the fed periodically, but the language was watered down and the audit now only applies to emergency spending by the fed.

So much for government transparency !

A Double Script Ohio In The Twin Cities

Friend and faithful blog reader Mike N. went to the Windy Cities last night and sent along this classic picture of The Best Damn Band In The Land performing a double Script Ohio at last night’s game.  It’s always great to see TBDBITL do Script Ohio in Ohio Stadium; it’s even more of a treat to see the Band perform their signature piece on the road.

It would be interesting to see what the Buckeyes’ record is for Big Ten games when the Band is in attendance.  I imagine it is pretty good — the Band always seem to give the football team a lift.

Beginning To Question The Dude

As we close in on Election Day, the professional punditry is talking a lot about President Obama.  They are arguing about whether it was smart for him to appear on The Daily Show, where he was called “dude” and his administration was the butt of gibes by Jon Stewart.  (Stewart’s reference to the President as “dude” made me laugh and think of Richard’s classic post, The Follies of Dudism.) They are speculating about whether he will “pivot” or “triangulate” or pull a Bill Clinton if the Republicans take over the House of Representatives.  They are questioning whether the President has lost the communications war and failed to explain the many “accomplishments” of his Administration to the American people.  John Kerry, for example, apparently thinks the American people are becoming a bunch of ignorant “know-nothings.”

Maureen Dowd’s column yesterday is along such lines.  She is starting to question the President and wondering when he is going to show the political deftness and communications skills he was hailed for in 2008.  You can see that some skepticism is beginning to creep in — she notes, for example, that the President will need to summon “political skills that he has not yet shown he has” — but she still speaks of the mysterious failure to convince the public of his “achievements.”  She suggests that he hasn’t used his “charm” as effectively as he could have and didn’t realize he needed to “sell” his ideas or respond to attacks, all of which has caused people to rush into the arms of “disturbingly inferior pols.”

I don’t remember President Obama being shy about talking to us about why he believed that the “health care reform” legislation was great, or how the “stimulus” legislation would be an engine for job creation, or why we needed to bail out GM and Chrysler and shield them from the consequences of decades of crappy products and poor business decisions.  I think there is a simpler explanation for the President’s current predicament:  the American people do understand what he has done and don’t really consider most of it to be an “achievement.”  And at some point, the punditry may come to recognize that, perhaps, President Obama is not quite the infinitely charming, brilliant, awesomely superior politician they still consider him to be.  They may look at his actual political record and realize that no master politician would have managed to take a sweeping electoral victory, huge majorities in both Houses of Congress, and the legitimate good wishes of a large majority of the American people and in two short years fritter it away to the point where the President’s party is on the brink of absorbing an historic defeat at the polls.

I think it will be good for both the President and the country when the public comes to realize that he is not some otherworldly figure.  He will be able to serve in his office unburdened by unattainable expectations.  The American people, on the other hand, will learn once again that we should not look to politicians for immediate salvation.

A Win And A Bye

Ohio State avoided a trap game last night.  They waxed the struggling Minnesota Golden Gophers, 52-10, in Minneapolis.  The Buckeyes now get a week off to heal and prepare for the last three games of the regular season, against Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan.

The Buckeyes played well.  They racked up more than 500 yards of total offense, and both the passing game and the running game were hitting on all cylinders (although Terrelle Pryor, who otherwise has an excellent game, no doubt wishes he could take back an ill-advised pass that was intercepted at the Minnesota goal line).  Defensively the Buckeyes gave up a few long passes down the middle but otherwise held a pretty good Minnesota offense in check.  The Buckeyes blew the game open by scoring 17 unanswered points in the second quarter, then added a special teams score and a defensive touchdown in the second half.

It’s hard to know what to make of last night’s game, because Minnesota clearly is not a very good team right now.  The Buckeyes should be satisfied with their win and will look forward to a bye week to rest up and get ready for the final push.  Currently Ohio State is one of four one-loss teams atop the Big Ten — Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa are the others — and the tough, bad-weather games on tap for November will tell the tale in the battle for the conference championship.

Small College Football

Today the Purple Raider, the Yankees Fan, and Old Rosie and I went to watch an Ohio Athletic Conference matchup at the Otterbein College field in Westerville, one of the suburbs of Columbus.  The mighty Mount Union Purple Raiders ultimately prevailed over the doughty Otterbein Cardinals, 28-10.  It was a somewhat lackluster game, but a lot of fun to watch nevertheless.

The Otterbein Cardinals take the field

The OAC is Division III football.  If you are used to Division I football of the Ohio State variety, as I am, Division III is something of a shock.  The facilities are much smaller — Otterbein basically has a large structure on the home side of the field and small bleachers on the visitors side — but that just means that you can get closer to the field.  The players are smaller, too, and slower, but blocking is blocking and tackling is tackling.  You can still appreciate a well-run play when the running back is 5′ 8″ and 170, or a good solid hit when the defensive lineman is 5′ 11″ and 230 pounds.  And because you are closer to the field in a much smaller environment, there is a chance that a well-timed bit of heckling could actually be heard by the coach.

The Otterbein band lets loose

We sat right in front of the Otterbein Band, and they added a lot to the game.  The bandies lent spirited support to the Cardinals on the field, playing song snippets after just about every good Otterbein play and verbally harassing the refs and the Mount Union mascot, a large purple parrot with a sword.  At the end of the third quarter the band broke into a fine rendition of Hey Baby (I Want to Know if You’ll Be My Girl), with most of the bandies singing along.

It cost $5 to get into the game, and $2 for a hot dog.  It was worth every penny.

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

When I woke up today I was very hungry.  It was dark.  I sat patiently in my crate.  A long time later the old boring guy came down to feed me.  He never gives me as much food as I want.  Today was no different.  Seriously, what is up with that?  I am hungry!

I looked around the food room for more food but there wasn’t any.  There usually isn’t.  I always look, though.  You never know.

Then we went outside for our walk.  I was happy because it was cold for a change.  The ground felt cool under my paws and the grass was cold against my snout.

I like cold weather better than hot weather.  What do you expect?  I’m covered with fur.

The Ever-Present Specter Of Terrorism

The latest news about an apparent terrorist exercise is just a reminder that terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are out there, probing for weaknesses and looking for opportunities to pull off some new form of attack against the United States.  It is encouraging to see that our intelligence services, no doubt working with intelligence services abroad, were able to detect this latest effort — and I am confident that for every success that is the subject of coverage in the news media there are hundreds of successes that are never disclosed in order to not reveal secret sources or methods.  In any case, we should all commend our government on its vigilance in this case.


A “Trap Game” In The Land Of The Golden Gophers

Tomorrow night Ohio State will play at Minnesota.  It is one of those “trap games”  — a game that the Buckeyes are expected to win, but also a game that poses challenges.

It has been a tough season for the Golden Gophers.  They are 0-4 in the Big Ten, having lost to Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Purdue, and 1-7 overall.  They had an embarrassing defeat to South Dakota, and earlier this season they fired their coach.  Still, Minnesota has managed to put points on the board in its conference losses.  They are led by a senior quarterback, Adam Weber, who has thrown for 17 touchdowns, and a big, tall, receiver, Da’Jon McKnight, who has caught nine of those scoring passes.  They have two good running backs who share rushing duties.  The Golden Gopher defense, however, has been a problem all season.

You would expect Ohio State to win this game, but there is reason for Buckeye fans to be wary.  This game is a way for the Minnesota players to salvage something from an otherwise lost season.  The Golden Gophers will be playing under the lights on national TV before what is likely to be their biggest crowd of the season.  They just saw their arch-rival, Wisconsin, beat Ohio State in a night game, and they will be fired up to duplicate that achievement.  I would expect Minnesota and its interim coach to pull out every stop and use every play in the playbook to try to win tomorrow night’s game.

As I said, it’s a trap game.  I hope the Buckeyes are ready.

Roller Derby Daze

Recently I heard a report on NPR about the growing popularity of roller derby, and I’ve seen articles about the phenomenon, too.  Seriously . . . roller derby?

Well, why not?

My roller derby days date back more than 40 years to Saturdays when UJ and I used to watch Channel 43, the UHF channel in the Cleveland market.  Roller derby was one of those off-brand sport shows, like “Big Time Wrestling,” that you watched on UHF stations.  They all featured simple plot lines and obvious good guys and bad guys.  Roller derby, however, was a bit more intriguing for 12-year-old boys because it involved women.  And what women they were!  Tall, statuesque women made even taller by their roller skates, with elaborate bleached blonde hairstyles, helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, and tight-fitting uniforms.  It was strangely alluring to see them whipped around the rickety ramped track by their teammates, ducking and diving as they tried to score points.

Of course, the rules of roller derby were unknowable, like the rules of cricket.  They had something to do with jamming and jammers, and the goal seemed to be to get around the massive, elbow-throwing skater guarding the rear of the pack and then passing as many skaters as possible.  Who cared, anyway?  I just wanted to see the San Francisco Bay Area Bombers take on their opponents, all the while secretly hoping these titanic figures would plow into the abdomen-level railing and flip over during a crucial point in the match, or would be hip-checked by a savvy opponent and then fly off the high side of the track into oblivion — to be inevitably followed, of course, by helmets thrown down like gantlets and some kind of cat fight in the center of the track.  For a 12-year-old kid, it was great entertainment!

Please Don’t Record My Dreams

The BBC reports that scientists now believe they can develop a system to record people’s dreams.  Their plan is to electronically visualize brain activity and identify dream themes by mapping activity in individual brain neurons that purportedly are associated with particular individuals, objects, or concepts.  The idea seems far-fetched, and the scientists concede they are a long away from actually being able to capture dreams.  I really wish they wouldn’t try.  We’re all better off, I think, if our dreams splinter into hazy fragments and vanish from our consciousness the moment we awake.

I almost never remember my dreams; I only recall those that are so deeply disturbing that they startle me into wakefulness and survive the forgetting process that accompanies the first instant of awareness.  And when you remember your “bad dreams,” you realize that it is not only the topics of the dreams that are troubling, such as being chased by a menacing dark figure or realizing that you are late for a final exam in a class that you have blown off since the semester began months ago.  Usually the physical context is equally unsettling, like suddenly finding yourself buck naked and running down a street in some creepy part of town or sitting with a long-dead relative in a cold, dark house where the walls ooze blood and there is a screaming face visible through every dusty window.  If every dream is so weird, wouldn’t remembering them all just be psychologically traumatic?  And, in a perverse way, wouldn’t it be an embarrassing let down if the vast majority of your dreams instead turned out to be boring downloads of what you did during the day?  Who would want to relive a humdrum workday?  Maybe we instantly forget our dreams because they are so dull.

I don’t know whether dreams are attempts to communicate with us from the Great Beyond, or extrasensory perceptions of future events, or just the products of random electrical discharges in an exhausted brain that needs to wind down after a tough day — and I don’t need to know.  Just let me get some shut-eye, and leave my dream life alone.

Caught in the Rye

It was a dreary rainy day in Columbus yesterday and since I’m not working right now I decided to lay in bed and read Catcher in the Rye in it’s entirety. Of course I loved the book, but while reading it I couldn’t help thinking about how Holden Caulfield would have expressed the current political climate and the fact that things don’t look so rosy right now for the younger generation. Here’s my take.

Boy, I bet President Obama is sore at the Republicans, really sore because he has been in office almost two years and they have yet to work with him on anything to try and make things better. Things are lousy, really awful right now especially the unemployment rate that’s currently at 9.6%. How am I gonna find a job, a good job, boy it makes me blue, blue as hell just thinking about it.

I wanna puke everytime I think about the Congress, the Congressmen are a bunch of jerks and the Senators are a bunch of phonies. They are all like around 100 years old and most of what they say is a bunch of crap. They talk about how they are gonna work together and they don’t, it’s just a bunch of bull. The whole thing just drives me crazy. 

Not to mention the deficit, I mean we are talking about a lot of dough. These politicans are really stupid spending like they do, they are a royal pain in my ass if you want to know the truth because I’m the one that’s gonna have to pay. I get scared sometimes that everything is gonna go lousy unless we do something and we are’nt doing a damn thing.

I can’t think about it any more cause it’s depressing the hell out of me.

An Election (And A Map) In The Balance

We’re now less than a week from Election Day, and the furious last-minute push of radio and TV ads, mailings, and get out the vote calling and canvassing is underway.

In Ohio, the marquee races are a gubernatorial contest between incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican challenger that appears to be close and a U.S. Senate race between Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Lee Fisher that polls are indicating will be a Portman blowout.  Along with those two headline races, Ohioans will vote for a full slate of statewide offices, Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court, the U.S. House of Representatives, and members of the Ohio Senate and Ohio House.  It will take a while to complete our ballots come Tuesday.

Although they haven’t commanded as much attention, two statewide races, for Secretary of State and Auditor, will have great long-term significance.  The occupants of those two offices, along with the Governor and one representative each of the Republican and Democratic parties, will form the Apportionment Board that will redraw the map of Ohio’s legislative districts after the 2010 census results are released.  The results of the Auditor’s race and the Secretary of State’s race therefore will determine whether the Ohio legislative districts are gerrymandered to benefit Democrats, or gerrymandered to benefit Republicans — or maybe, just maybe, drawn to reflect logical geographical and social factors in a way that results in more fairly competitive races for the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.  (But who am I kidding?)

Edited to correct my mistake in the original post, which stated that the Apportionment Board redraws Ohio’s congressional districts.  Instead, it redraws Ohio’s state legislative districts.  The redrawing of congressional districts is reserved for the Ohio General Assembly.  Thanks to the Philosopher King of the Fifth Floor for steering me in the right direction on an embarrassing error.

Insects Frozen In Time

A discovery in India of a cache of 50 million-year-old amber has allowed scientists to discover hundreds of new species of insects.  The insects are stunningly well preserved, so much so that they look like they could escape the amber, shake off the remnants, and hop, stalk, or fly away.

An example of an insect encased in amber from an earlier find in Spain

The photos of the trapped insects are very evocative, because the insects look so much like the insects of the modern world.  They feature antennae, and feelers, and segmented bodies, and lacy wings.  It appears that, in the last 50 million years, there have been no large, developmental leaps for insects — at least, not in connection with body design and external appearance.  Instead, the insects have been biding their time for those millions of years, letting the long roll of years and the forces of natural selection hone and incrementally improve what had already proven to be a very successful evolutionary design.

One interesting aspect of the recent find is that the soft Indian amber in which the insects are encased can be dissolved, allowing scientists to handle the insects themselves.  Imagine, holding an insect that lived 50 million years ago!