phynedyning

Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

A Phyne Phinale…C’est largement suffisant!

In General Information, Lifestyle on April 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

w2OIf

 

A smart man knows when to call it a day. A successful comedian leaves the stage after telling his funniest story.

I’ll take that as wise counsel. But, first, a re-cap:

Phyne Dyning has been chugging along for almost three years. It got its start as a mini-rebellion against the foodie craze that sent legions of amateur food critics into bistros, cafes, slop-houses, and award-winning restaurants. Enlightened by jargon they picked up by watching Gordon Ramsay and armed with a credit card budget and a word-processor (maybe even some graphics design software), they tore into the livelihoods of professional cooks. (“The boy kills the frog in sport. But the frog dies in earnest.”)

A few months later, Phyne Dyning changed lanes and followed a path blazed by Jeff Smith, a personally troubled Methodist minister cum Frugal Gourmet. These pages began to feature the preparation of elegant peasant foods, particularly those from the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe. Lately, the Phyne Dyner ventured into French peasant foods and France’s rural gastronomie.

And, there was politics: specifically, libertarian socialism.

The sad reality about politics is that people don’t care much about it while they have a full belly and bountiful entertainments.

That’s not new.

Only about 20-25% of American colonists took an active side in revolutionary ideas. Victor Hugo often lamented the French apathy about matters of freedom; the failed June Rebellion in 1832 inspired him to write his epic Les Misérables. Fyodor Dostoevsky was perplexed by the Russian people, almost entirely Christian, who stoically (somewhat bovine) endured abuse by the Russian monarchy. Russian malaise inspired Dostoevsky to pen The Idiot.

Borderline nihilism is nothing new to mankind.

Knowing so hardly inspires a desire to arise from one’s bed at 3am to pound out original material for a few readers to masticate upon in the morning.

What now?

It’s almost enough to make me chuckle.

I have a completely written cookbook that lacks only some final graphics work before I self-publish it.

I know. Everybody writes cookbooks. It’s okay.

Really.

Then, there is my ‘great American novel’ that molders in my hard drive. It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller, based on medical realities, in the vein of Michael Crichton’s early SF work.

[I have the opinion that George Stewart’s 1949 Earth Abides was the apogee of the post-apocalyptic genre. I first read the book in 1965 and I’ve probably read it at least a hundred times since. Neck-in-neck for close second stand two books: William Forstchen’s 2009 One Second After and S.M. Stirling’s series that began with Dies the Fire (2006). (Forstchen scratches past Stirling a bit because Stirling failed to leave the stage before allowing his series to degrade to a Tolkien-esque conflict between supernatural cults.)]

I’d be remiss to close this out without expressing gratitude to my loyal tens of readers. It’s been an enjoyable three years. I’m grateful too, because the Phyne Dyning blog connected me with Linda, my writing coach and, now, agent.

It is all her fault that the curtain now falls on Phyne Dyning. She astutely pointed out that I am entering my sixth decade and that my novel isn’t going to write itself. “Finish writing the damned book. Worry about the mechanics later. Don’t worry about publishing. Tell the story.”

That’s what I shall do.

[No, Linda…”…Wouldn’t touch my cookbook with a ten-foot pole.” Gee!]

Even I can’t make this stuff up…

In General Information on April 10, 2013 at 8:17 am

If the allegations are true, Mayor James Schiliro of Marcus Hook, PA sounds like a fun-loving kind of guy.

On February 22, 2013 Hizzonor the Mayor allegedly ordered a Marcus Hook police officer (Department motto: “To Procure and Serve”) to pick up his 20 year-old ‘friend’ and bring him to the mayoral mansion. Once the young man arrived, Schiliro gave him three glasses of what the youth ‘thinks’ was wine and began chatting the young fellow up.

About what, you ask?

About 20 to 30 requests by Schiliro to perform oral sex on the young man.

The young, wine-sipping ‘friend’ declined participating in the mayor’s sausage tasting, so Schiliro pulled out a gun and told the kid he was now a ‘hostage’.

Schiliro was charged with crimes including false imprisonment, unlawful restraint and two counts of recklessly endangering another person and vows to fight those charges in court. The procuring officer was not charged.

Mayor James Schirilo was one of 600 American mayors who signed NYC megalomaniac Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns letter.

Socialism: It’s not the boogeyman.

In Intro to Libertarianism on April 9, 2013 at 11:33 am

th-1

I’ve been promising a short intro to libertarian socialism for some time. This is a quick and easy read. I don’t argue that any and all goods and services would not be available without socialism (a myth about what socialists believe that is propagated by capitalists). I argue that voluntary socialism allows for costs and labor to be spread out among many…“Many hands make light work.”

Mention ‘socialism’ and most listeners will mentally image a grim, authoritarian society, all painted in gray. People naturally recoil whenever socialism gets a mention.

That’s a shame. They’ve been conditioned to do so, by propagandists trading in state capitalism and in state socialism.

Mikhail Bakunin prophesied that state socialism would turn out bloodier than the monarchies it was replacing in Europe. We have seen, in the over one hundred years of state socialism’s existence, Bakunin’s prophesy was right on the money. (State capitalism or fascism gets an equal share of blood.)

Despite its bad ‘rap’, nice people practice socialism every day.

They join civic clubs, are members in houses of worship, and they participate in group-managed recreation.

I like target shooting. But I cannot afford to build a nice range. A lot of folks are in my boat.

So, we all pool our resources and buy some land. We charge ongoing ‘dues’ to every member and maybe an ‘initiation fee’ to new members. We take turns maintaining the range, running the line, and we pool more money to buy needed insurance, targets, and other stuff.

A board of directors governs the range and its use. The directors either volunteer, according to their ability, or they are elected (according to perceived ability or past performance). Every member has a voice in how the range is operated. If a member finds some range policy objectionable, he/she can petition to change the policy, or they can vote with their feet and join some other group of shooters at their range.

Conversely, if a member becomes a pain in the ass or is dangerous to the rest of the group, the membership can oust him/her.

Sure, one person could build a range and then charge everyone else to use it. There’s nothing wrong with that if he has the money to do so single-handedly.

But, socialism allows people of limited individual means to obtain something by sharing its cost. A nice range costing $100,000 becomes a $1,000 investment among 100 members. Each member then owns 1/100th of the finished project. (In capitalism, the person supplying the capital often demands (and gets) a bigger share of ownership…as though their lucre has greater value than the sweat of the worker or any contributed raw materials needed. It is the myth of money.)

[Remember car-pooling as a teenager? Same principle. One guy supplied the car. The riders supplied gas and beer (or meals) for the driver. I don’t remember a driver ever suggesting entitlement to a larger share because his investment (the car) was bigger than the rider’s investments. The driver, having spent his money on a car, needed the riders to pay for gas and beer. Guys who trumpeted their car value as a mechanism for compelling extra beer rations often found themselves alone, sitting in their driveway…thirsty.]

It’s painful to see people who embrace voluntary socialism turn self-hating.

Socialism, libertarian socialism, is an entirely voluntary system that shares none of the horrors of state socialism (or state capitalism).

We make libertarian socialism work in so many of our daily lives. It’s not a perfect system. Any true libertarian will admit that every system has imperfections. But, if it is voluntary, where’s the harm?

So long as any economic system used is mutually agreed upon and its participants can vote to leave it by leaving, it has merit.

Socialism is not a boogeyman.

That would be the state.

Next up: Why I believe property ownership should be limited to only those goods and services actually produced by the owner. How property inheritance, like peerage titles, should be abolished unless the involved property is actually owned (or even ownable) by the bequestor. (HINT: Very little of today’s wealth was generated by the holder. It’s beyond annoying to hear some twit boasting of, “How I built…” when he actually inherited, rather than built…anything.) How it is the joy of creating that enriches man, not acquisition and accumulation. And finally, how the capitalist ‘free’ market actually enslaves by forcing a seller to go to his knees before the wealthy capitalist and beg to be enriched by him.

Potage aux Petits Pois (Pea Soup)

In Recipies on April 9, 2013 at 10:34 am

I originally ran a pea soup recipe in February 2012. This one is quite similar, but different (thank you, Yogi Berra). This variation is a bit more authentic to one from 1800s in Paris. Give it a try. What can it hurt?

Pea soup has an interesting history. This hearty soup is also known by its eponym, potage Saint-Germain. It takes this name from the suburb of Paris where, according to food historians, it was first concocted.

Saint-Germain, in olden days, was on the verge of rural living. Green peas were counted among the local crops. Cheap and readily available, green peas naturally found their way into soup, the staple food of subsistence living.

While not entirely authentic to its origin, I almost always add potatoes to my pea soup. They add a bit of pleasant body and creaminess to the soup and adding a cup or two of diced potato at the finish gives it a pleasant ‘chew’.

The essential base for good pea soup is a good vegetable broth. When vegetables are in season (or on sale) all of my vegetable trimmings go into a five-gallon pot of water. The brew varies by what is in abundance, just like in old Paris. Celery tops, squash stubs, and other stuff most people pitch in the trash or compost heap, makes a wonderful broth which I carefully strain and then freeze. This method gives me enough broth to last through the cold and damp months when soups are coveted table faire.

Many recipes for pea soup include bacon or ham. Because my Invisible Friend has a ‘thing’ against eating pig, I either flavor my soup base with ‘turkey ham’ or by boiling several saved beef bones in the vegetable broth. Meat flavoring can be omitted though. When it is, I cook the vegetables in real butter instead of olive oil.

Let’s make some soup. You’ll need:

1 lb split peas, sorted and rinsed

1 C celery, diced

1 bay leaf

1 large onion, diced

8 C vegetable broth

½ C dry white wine

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into wheels

2 C ‘ham’, cubed (optional) or boil bones in broth

3 TBS olive oil or butter

1 C half and half

1 tsp dried marjoram

¼ tsp fennel seeds, cracked

4 large potatoes, peeled and diced (divided)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the washed and sorted peas in a large, covered pot. Add enough water to fully cover the peas. Bring the peas to a rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, and then strain the peas to remove the water. Rinse the peas under cold water. Rinse out the pot.

Heat the olive oil (or butter) in the pot, over medium heat. ‘Sweat’ the onion and celery until they are translucent and glistening. Remove the vegetables to a clean platter. Toss the ham into the pot and brown its edges. Remove the ham to a second plate and return the cooked vegetables to the pot. Stir in the vegetable broth, all but 1 C of the diced potatoes, wine, fennel seeds, and marjoram. Return the peas to the pot, cover, and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the peas are soft.

Find and remove the bay leaf. Stir in the half and half and process the soup to a smooth consistency.

[Use a ‘stick’ blender for this part or use a regular food processor. If you use a regular food processor (or blender) allow the soup to cool a bit before processing or blending it.]

Return the soup to a slow simmer. Stir in the remaining potatoes, the ham (if using), and the carrot wheels. Check the seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed. Serve in deep bowls and have the pepper mill at the table.

Enjoy!

It’s a null contract. It has nothing to do with ‘deserve’.

In Re-blogged from Flyover Press on April 9, 2013 at 9:32 am

Screwing the Troops: What Else is New?

Posted on April 9, 2013

“Remember, we are not talking welfare queens or entitlement  parasites. These are guys badly hurt in Washington’s wars, brains scrambled by  IEDs, legs still somewhere in Afghanistan.”

Flyover Press editor, Dr. Jimmy LaBaume adds:

There is a question that has haunted me for some years now. How can these guys (who very much deserve it if anybody ever did) find justice without victimizing (extorting) innocent people–people that had nothing to do with Washington’s wars?

Should society just say, “screw ‘em” because they got what they deserved because they signed up for it. Or, should society recognize they were as much victims of the propaganda machine as anybody ever has been and take care of them?

I know what the libertarian answer is: No one has any sort of “right” to NOT starve. To claim such a right would require a claim on someone else’s life which no human has any sort of “right” to.

But to me personally, it is the classic ethical dilemma. I also have a VA disability claim that has been in the mill for over a year now. I fully intend to take all I can get from the bastards for ruining my life by destroying my health. My dilemma arises because I know that somebody will have to be robbed. — jtl, 419

 

statismI’ll give you partial credit, Doc. But you lost me when you invoked ‘deserve’.

It is true that no one has any sort of ‘right’ to NOT starve. It is equally true that no one should be forced to fulfill the terms of a contract they did not voluntarily enter into as individuals. (It is the same reason any assertion that there exists some ‘social contract’ is nonsense…it lacks the required element of being voluntary.)

The veterans (and other ‘welfare queens’) need to visit with the folks who made the promises. (Show me where I signed the contract.)

The state creates more poverty than sloth ever has. Diplomatic bungling by the state started more wars than did any individual soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine. By what right do the state’s welfare queens and former military have a right to enjoy what is mine? They have no such right.

Neither group ‘deserves’ benefits.

If the ‘unseen, third man’ is foolish enough to allow the state to confiscate his money and put it all in a magical, pendulous, government teat…the veterans AND the welfare queens (both being state-created) should suck, suck, suck until the teat runs dry. But they also need to remember…they have no entitlement to having the teat refilled with milk compelled from its rightful owner.

 

Here’s Fred…

by Fred Reed via Fred on Everything

For a  country always at war, the United States is remarkably not interested in taking  care of soldiers it has broken in its wars. Having bankrupted the country,  Washington sinks every available penny into the two purposes of the military:  funneling money into the arms industry, and fueling imperial ambitions, in  large part of pasty fern-bar Napoleons at National Review and Commentary. The  Veterans Administration is way back in the chow line. It doesn’t work very well.  As best I can tell, nobody cares.

What do I mean,  it doesn’t work? Consider a vet blinded or nearly so in some war or other. To  use a computer, which has come to be necessary life, he needs screen-reader  software, such as JAWS. It costs roughly a thousand dollars retail. For a  blinded vet, most likely of slight education and no resources beyond his VA  compensation, this is a lot of money.

The software  could be provided quickly and easily, as follows: The vet fills out an  application online, perhaps prints it, signs it, and scans it to the VA. An  employee of the VA receives it and keys the veteran’s social-security number  into his computer. In two seconds the vet’s records come up. Yep, blind. The VA  emails him a URL and download key, by arrangement previously made with the  manufacturer of the software. The vet downloads it. End of story. Elapsed time:  an hour, plus download.

What really  happens? To begin with, the VA is so disorganized, its web sites so badly  designed, its technology so primitive, its staffing so inadequate, its unending  forms so incomprehensible, that few vets can navigate the system. I can’t. The  kid from Tennessee, with a room-temperature IQ and what passes now for a  high-school education, doesn’t have a chance. He will simply be ignored. I know  this from personal experience. I have sent letter after letter to the  educational-benefits office in Buffalo, and nothing comes back. This is common.

So much for  supporting our boys in uniform. They are broken goods. What the hell. We can  recruit new ones.

The delay  and endless often senseless paperwork involved in getting anything is so great  that it is easier for disabled vets just to do without or pay for it themselves  one way or another. Remember, we are not talking welfare queens or entitlement  parasites. These are guys badly hurt in Washington’s wars, brains scrambled by  IEDs, legs still somewhere in Afghanistan. The vet’s only  hope is to have smart, tenacious representation, preferably by a lawyer. Few have  this. What it comes to is that, in practice, the benefits that are supposed to  exist do not. This saves a lot of money. It doesn’t help the vet.

I did have (very)  good representation in a matter involving the VA. A career in journalism gives  you contacts that men from small towns in the heartlands don’t have. My rep and  I requested my VA records. Easy, right? They pop up on the computer? No. They  exist only on paper. Scanning the records of veterans of Viet Nam, who are  aging and need care, would cost money. Washington has much more interest in  making new cripples in remote countries than in caring for the  cripples it has already made. My country, ‘tis  of thee….

The VA said consecutively  that my records were in Pittsburg, then Austin, then St. Louis, and then, God  knows why, in Portland, Oregon. It took a year to get them, despite threats of  litigation.

Utter  confusion reigned. Over and over they sent us forms to fill out that we had  already filled out, sent letters to the wrong address. This is what most face  without help. The barrier is almost insurmountable, and saves the government a  lot of money.

I live in  Mexico, as do a lot of vets, a fair few of them disabled. (The VA seems not to  understand that a world exists beyond America’s borders. Nowhere on the VA’s  web site could I find answers to questions that expat vets need answered.) If a  vet here makes a claim because his condition has worsened, he goes through the  VA office in Houston. On average, it takes Houston 377 days just to get to him. Not to solve the problem, just  for him to bubble to the top of the pile. Being technologically at the  grass-hut level, the VA doesn’t know about email, and so sends and demands paper  letters. These may or may not arrive in foreign lands. The VA insists on the  vet’s filling out a form he didn’t receive and didn’t know was sent, so the  whole convoluted process stops.

Try dealing  with this if, as is the case with an acquaintance of mine, you are so riddled  with shrapnel, because something big came through the bottom of your  helicopter, that you are in constant pain—forty years later. You have to take  so much pain medication just to get through the day that you can’t under  bureaucratic letters. The consequence is….

The hell  with it. The following is a letter to me from an attorney who represents vets  pro bono before the VA:

“Fred: Of  course, your suggestion (about screen-reading software) makes perfect sense and  that’s why it will never happen. Secretary Shinseki means well and has done  what he can to improve the claims backlog, but no one ever expected that the  wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would lead to the number of service-connected  injuries that currently exist. One of the biggest problems is orthopedic  injuries caused by the 100-pound-plus combat loads these kids have to carry. I  currently have four claims for Iraq and Afghanistan kids for shoulder, hip and  knee injuries, usually caused when they fall going up or down hilly terrain  with these loads. Then there are the injuries caused by IEDs. The truth is that  the President has given more money to the VA in five years than Bush did in  eight, but it’s not enough, thanks to Republicans in the House. The new budget  proposes a 4% increase to $63 billion, but it does not include enough money to  hire thousands of new people to work on claims. Most of the increase is to hire  more medical staff, particularly mental health providers. It does no good to  offer mental-health services when the vets who are suffering can’t get their  claims done in less than a year. It is forcing many to live on the streets,  sleep in their cars or they end up in shelters. We see this right here, in  Central Oregon.”

It makes me  feel so patriotic I could choke.

Introducing: The Fallon Forum

In General Information on April 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Ed Fallon (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ed Fallon (Photo: Wikipedia)

 

Phyne Dyning is pleased to link fellow Dyners to The Fallon Forum.

The forum’s namesake is a long-time progressive. And, despite his statist leanings, he champions all of the right causes. I don’t agree with Ed on everything and I’m sure there is a quid pro quo on his part for my positions as well. That said, I’ve always known Ed to be respectful. Make no mistake, I don’t embrace all of his causes. For starters:

Global Warming – It’s not that I am a blanket denier of the possibility the global warming folks are right. I just don’t know. The topic has been turned into a quasi-religion (on both sides). Finding objective material dealing with the topic has become almost impossible.

Gun Control – Ed favors a blanket ‘assault weapons ban’. The best argument against his support is the Sandy Hook massacre itself. The gunman fired 150rds in just over 20 minutes. That is a rate of fire somewhere around 8 shots per minute. A minimally competent shooter using a double-barreled shotgun could easily exceed that rate. The problem isn’t guns, it’s the lack of respect for life and civility…which Ed also champions.

 

What do I like about Ed?

He’s an ardent supporter of the Occupy movement. He was arrested when he participated in the occupation of the Iowa Capitol Complex (and was subsequently acquitted of the charges). He is a friend to the area Catholic Workers, Friends, and other peace organizations. Ed doesn’t just shoot his mouth off, like many commentators, he gets involved.

No, Ed is not a libertarian. But, he counts libertarians among his friends.

That’s enough for me.

 

 

 

 

 

If this is “Economic Recovery”, we could use less of it.

In General Information, Re-blogged from Flyover Press on April 8, 2013 at 8:13 am

21 Statistics About The Explosive Growth Of Poverty In America That Everyone Should Know

via The Economic Collapse

21 Statistics About The Explosive Growth Of Poverty In America That Everyone Should Know - Phot by D. Sharon PruittIf the economy is getting better, then why does poverty in America continue to grow so rapidly?  Yes, the stock market has been hitting all-time highs recently, but also the number of Americans living in poverty has now reached a level not seen since the 1960s.  Yes, corporate profits are at levels never seen before, but so is the number of Americans on food stamps.  Yes, housing prices have started to rebound a little bit (especially in wealthy areas), but there are also more than a million public school students in America that are homeless.  That is the first time that has ever happened in U.S. history.  So should we measure our economic progress by the false stock market bubble that has been inflated by Ben Bernanke’s reckless money printing, or should we measure our economic progress by how the poor and the middle class are doing?  Because if we look at how average Americans are doing these days, then there is not much to be excited about.  In fact, poverty continues to experience explosive growth in the United States and the middle class continues to shrink.  Sadly, the truth is that things are not getting better for most Americans.  With each passing year the level of economic suffering in this country continues to go up, and we haven’t even reached the next major wave of the economic collapse yet.  When that strikes, the level of economic pain in this nation is going to be off the charts.

The following are 21 statistics about the explosive growth of poverty in America that everyone should know…

1 – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately one out of every six Americans is now living in poverty.  The number of Americans living in poverty is now at a level not seen since the 1960s.

2 – When you add in the number of low income Americans it is even more sobering.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 146 million Americans are either “poor” or “low income”.

3 – Today, approximately 20 percent of all children in the United States are living in poverty.  Incredibly, a higher percentage of children is living in poverty in America today than was the case back in 1975.

4 – It may be hard to believe, but approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are currently living in homes that are either considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.

5 – Poverty is the worst in our inner cities.  At this point, 29.2 percent of all African-American households with children are dealing with food insecurity.

6 – According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

7 – The number of children living on $2.00 a day or less in the United States has grown to 2.8 million.  That number has increased by 130 percent since 1996.

8 – For the first time ever, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

9 – Family homelessness in the Washington D.C. region (one of the wealthiest regions in the entire country) has risen 23 percent since the last recession began.

10 – One university study estimates that child poverty costs the U.S. economy 500 billion dollars each year.

11 – At this point, approximately one out of every three children in the U.S. lives in a home without a father.

12 – Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

13 – Today, there are approximately 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

14 – About 40 percent of all unemployed workers in America have been out of work for at least half a year.

15 – At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

16 – There has been an explosion in the number of “working poor” Americans in recent years.  Today, about one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the poverty level.

17 – Right now, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government.  And that does not even include Social Security or Medicare.

18 – An all-time record 47.79 million Americans are now on food stamps.  Back when Barack Obama first took office, that number was only sitting at about 32 million.

19 – The number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the entire population of Spain.

20 – According to one calculation, the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of “Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.”

21 – Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, close to one out of every six Americans is on food stamps.  Even more shocking is the fact that more than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.

Unfortunately, all of these problems are a result of our long-term economic decline.  In a recent article for the New York Times, David Stockman, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, did a brilliant job of describing how things have degenerated over the last decade…

Since the S&P 500 first reached its current level, in March 2000, the mad money printers at the Federal Reserve have expanded their balance sheet sixfold (to $3.2 trillion from $500 billion). Yet during that stretch, economic output has grown by an average of 1.7 percent a year (the slowest since the Civil War); real business investment has crawled forward at only 0.8 percent per year; and the payroll job count has crept up at a negligible 0.1 percent annually. Real median family income growth has dropped 8 percent, and the number of full-time middle class jobs, 6 percent. The real net worth of the “bottom” 90 percent has dropped by one-fourth. The number of food stamp and disability aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million, about one in five Americans.

For the last couple of years, the U.S. economy has experienced a bubble of false hope that has been produced by unprecedented amounts of government debt and unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve.

Unfortunately, that bubble of false hope is not going to last much longer.  In fact, we are already seeing signs that it is getting ready to burst.

For example, initial claims for unemployment benefits shot up to 385,000 for the week ending March 30th.

That is perilously close to the 400,000 “danger level” that I keep warning about.  Once we cross the 400,000 level and stay there, it will be time to go into crisis mode.

In the years ahead, it is going to become increasingly difficult to find a job.  Just the other day I saw an article about an advertisement for a recent job opening at a McDonald’s in Massachusetts that required applicants to have “one to two years experience and a bachelor’s degree“.

Homeless And Cold - Photo By Ed Yourdon

If you need a bachelor’s degree for a job at McDonald’s, then what in the world are blue collar workers going to do when the competition for jobs becomes really intense once the economy experiences another major downturn?

Do not be fooled by the fact that the Dow has been setting new all-time highs.  The truth is that we are in the midst of a long-term economic decline, and things are going to get a lot worse.  If you know someone that is not convinced of this yet, just share the following article with them: “Show This To Anyone That Believes That ‘Things Are Getting Better’ In America“.

So what are all of you seeing in your own areas?

Are you seeing signs that poverty is getting worse?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

Time (barely) for some more ‘Randumb Thoughts from Phyne Dyning’

In General Information on April 5, 2013 at 10:38 am

Phyne Dyning always strives to bring its readers (now numbering in the tens) original content, rather than serving only as a source for material collected from around the Web. Well, almost always.

 

Spring has sprung. That means yard work abounds, lists of “honey-dos” require my attention, my real business pursuits are clamoring for attention, and I need to get my garden in.

 

It all gets in the way of what I really like to do: Spew scurrilous commentary.

 

Knowing that my reader(s) would otherwise drift away faster than a murder of crows flying over a field filled with shiny objects, here is a skeleton edition of Phyne Dyning…

 

I am an unabashed Chomskyite. Here’s an interesting article on how the new approach to dissidents is not to disagree with their message. The new (old Soviet) approach in Amerika is to simply call them ‘crazy’ and in need of ‘treatment’. Read on!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/23/noam-chomsky-guardian-personality

The Department of Homeland Security (Sieg Heil!) was purposed, we were told, to keep us safe from Islamic extremists responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Things have changed.

DHS has a new mission; spying on domestic dissidents who have deep-seated concerns about the unholy marriage between government and business…and suppressing First Amendment rights. Obviously, this is something of which the public must not be made aware.

http://wallstreetonparade.com/2013/04/as-it-spied-on-occupy-wall-street-department-of-homeland-security-fixated-on-media-coverage/

The state security apparatchik is so self-confident (delusional?) that the worst thing they can do is to start explaining themselves. Here is an example of what happens when the folks at a local Fusion Centers tried to explain themselves and their ‘mission’. It is laugh-out-loud funny!

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130402/02150622543/homeland-security-fusion-center-director-were-not-spying-americans-just-anti-government-americans.shtml?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

After watching this, you’ll get down on your knees and thank Heaven that our masters are as dumb as a bag of hammers. If they were intelligent and organized, freedom would truly be fucked. Roar with laughter at this example of stupidity in action when an ‘elected’ lawmaker (edict issuer) explains why laws banning high capacity magazine-clips (sic) will eventually result in their total disappearance.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/04/03/co_democrat_doesnt_understand_high-capacity_magazines_can_be_reloaded.html

The hallmark characteristics of a totalitarian state are: 1) Enemies of the state are everywhere, and 2) Criminals are ‘everyone’.

If you get your news from other than ‘officially approved’ vendors, you are a criminal. SWAT teams are standing ready to take you in custody if you read without permission.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/04/are-you-teenager-who-reads-news-online-according-justice-department-you-may-be

This was too good to wait. When I was up to my ass in alligators and trying to remember where the damn plug was to drain the swamp, I forwarded this on to my friend, Dr. LaBaume, to publish on his Flyover Press site.

Heedful of government admonishments to ‘practice safe sex’, a woman carries condoms in her purse. When government goons find them, she is accused of being a prostitute and is harassed in the “Land of the Free”.

What’s odd about that.

If you follow the advice of the Department of Homeland Security (Sieg Heil!) and keep a box of canned tuna under your bed in case of a disruption in the nation’s food supply, you’re a “survivalist prepper” in need of state monitoring.

 Totalitarian states are efficient. If you break a law, you go to prison. If you obey the law, you go to prison. Fast, easy, and convenient.

http://rabble.ca/news/2013/04/sexism-border-personal-account

Never trespass into the state’s sandbox. Only the state can issue warnings and most of those are jokes too.

Take the TSA.

The following is a list of terrorist plots foiled by TSA screeners:

-this space intentionally blank-

The following is a list of terrorist plots foiled by the FBI and Homeland Security

(NOTE: Agency entrapment of retards was not included in the list).

-this space intentionally left blank-

But when a couple of wisecracking DJs intrude on the state’s right to deceive, you can bet your ass felony charges against the DJs are likely.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/04/florida-djs-april-fools-water-joke/63798/

Holy shit, where’s the Tylenol?

When a local security guard made a joking reference to the movie kidnapping of CEO ‘Frank Shirley’ by the dimwitted ‘Cousin Eddie’ in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, Principle Financial Group made sure he was fired.

There is no such thing as ‘corporate humor’.

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20130321/NEWS/303210079/-Griswold-quip-leads-to-firing-of-security-guard?Frontpage&nclick_check=1

It also proves corporate leaders are every bit the “cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit” that Clark Griswold saw them to be.

 There you go! You may now return to your normal activities.

Libertarian Socialism: A Thanksgiving (Passover) Tale

In Intro to Libertarianism on April 2, 2013 at 11:17 am

[Some time back, I promised to publish a series of articles related to the concept of libertarian socialism and why I adhere to it, rather than ‘anarcho-capitalism’. I apologize for the delay…I’m old and my published material is free. So there. PD]

My household is completing Passover. Passover is kind of like ‘Jewish Thanksgiving’ where we turn our thoughts to gratitude that G-d (not government) made us and intended us to be (and live) free.

Every Thanksgiving in the United Soviet Socialist States of America brings a repetition of the story of how socialism failed the Pilgrims and how capitalism saved them.

In short, the story goes like this:

“The Pilgrims first engaged in communal economics where each person grew, hunted, or scavenged food to be put in the common store. The Pilgrims starved. In what is now attributed to Divine inspiration, the leadership changed economic policies and the colony of Puritans became instant capitalists. What a person grew…was theirs. They could store it, sell it, or trade it. The colony flourished under this system. The Pilgrims then engaged in free market trade with their red brothers and sisters. Therefore, it is said by worshipful devotees of the system, capitalism is superior to evil socialism.”

The story reminds me of “The Polish Scientist”. (I am legally empowered to tell ‘Polack Jokes’.)

“A Polish scientist embarked on an experiment. After placing a frog on his workbench, he would shout, “Jump!” at the frog. Soon, the frog learned to jump on command. The scientist cut off one of the frog’s back legs and shouted, “Jump!” The frog jumped only a few inches. The scientist recorded his findings in his notes. The scientist then cut off the other back leg and shouted, “Jump!” The frog did not move. “Jump!”, shouted the scientist. No movement. The scientist then records in his notebook: “Upon removal of both back legs, the frog becomes deaf.”

Cause and effect. They are related.

If the story linking the triumph of Pilgrim capitalism over socialism has merit, then so does the story of the Bielski otriad (Rus. ‘partisan brigade’). My sources are two historical accounts of Eastern European partisan groups: Defiance by Nachama Tec (Oxford University Press 1993) and Fugitives of the Forest by Allan Levine (Lyons Press 1998).

[NOTE: Tec’s history of the Bielski otriad was subsequently made into a feature film by director Edward Zwick. Although highly entertaining, the movie account bore only superficial resemblance to the history of the Bielski partisans.]

After the Nazis invaded Belarus in the summer of 1941, they embarked on the systematic extermination of its Jewish population. Thousands of Jews fled hamlets and cities to take their chances in the nearby forests. Most were hunted down or killed by unsympathetic (gentile) peasants. Red Army units in the area typically robbed the refugees and murdered them, counter to Soviet law (So much for state protection!).

Tuvia, Asael, and Zus Bielski likewise escaped to the Nalibocka forest where they, reluctantly, became a locus for desperate refugees in need of protection and leadership. Tuvia Bielski, with two years of Polish army service under his belt, became the unwilling commander of the otriad. His brother, Asael, became his war minister.

The Bielski family was of humble origins. Their father was a miller. They were not quite peasants and not quite bourgeoisie. Despite this, Tuvia married upward into a strongly middle class merchant family.

The Bielskis, prior to their forest exile, were not devoted to Marxism or Marxist economics.

The Bielski otriad grew. It was official policy, rigorously enforced by Tuvia, that no Jew would be turned away from membership in the otriad because they were elderly, poor, unable to work, or had nothing to offer the common store. Admission to the otriad did require potential members to surrender all money, jewelry, bullion, weapons, and food to the common pot.

If they refused, they were invited to leave and take their chances alone. Few applicants voted with their feet and left. Tales of Rambo aside, a lone wolf strategy for survival in a hostile environment is a suicidal plan.

The Bielski otriad became an operating model of libertarian socialism.

Members were expected to work, if possible. But nobody was exiled from the group if they could not work. The otriad operated, mostly, according to Bakunin’s Principle of Distribution, “From each, according to his ability. To each, according to how hard he works.” [Over-production was encouraged. Those (there were many ‘shops’ in the otriad) who over-produced were required to surrender their ‘excess’ product to the common pot, but were given a portion of the overage as a wage. There was no capitalistic accumulation of product by those who produced more than what was needed. Despite this ‘negative incentive (per the capitalists) many of the otriad’s ‘shops’ regularly competed with each other to out produce needed goods.]

This policy was often modified. During some short periods of its existence when supplies were scarcest, distribution was entirely communistic: “From each, according to his ability. To each, according to his need.” The communist approach was strongly resented by those who were productive and by those who performed dangerous work, such as scavenging for food. These workers typically demanded a better or larger share of goods and disparaged those unable to work as malbushim (lit. ‘empty clothing’). Tuvia frequently relented and gave productive and risk-prone workers better food, but he also gave the group’s malbushim slightly better rations at the same time. It is safe to say that, when the commune prospered so did all of its members. During times of plenty (some commune members gained weight after leaving the ghetto for the forest), resource distribution was practiced strictly according to Bakunin.

It was a delicate tightrope to walk. Years afterward, there were still a few bitter souls who disparaged Tuvia’s leadership.

Be that as it may, the group flourished.

The otriad successfully linked with Soviet partisans who, uncharacteristically, traded weapons, food, and medical supplies with the Jews. At the end of its existence, the otriad consisted of nearly 1,300 members and had established schools, a synagogue, and a hospital. Despite an official policy prohibiting births within the otriad, numerous babies were born during the exile and no expectant mother was cast out when her pregnancy was discovered by the central leadership.

They could, of course, leave on their own. Virtually none took advantage of the offer.

So, let’s compare the Pigrims to the Bielski Jews.

The Pilgrims were a comparatively smaller group. They had the support of the indigenous population. They were not actively hunted by a militarily superior hostile force.

They turned to capitalism and survived. Barely.

The Bielskis were numerous. Their logistics were enormous. The local peasants would gleefully turn them in for a loaf of bread. They were hunted by the most technologically advanced army in Europe.

They turned to libertarian socialism. And thrived.

Cause and effect?

[Closing Note: I cling to libertarian socialism because it works. State socialism is bloody and doomed to failure. So long as the foundation of a society is libertarian-anarchist, it will succeed under socialist or capitalist economic policies. It is the freedom in the system that matters. I believe that libertarian socialism will outlive anarcho-capitalism because capitalism is founded in exploitation. So long as anarcho-capitalists are willing to have to undergo ‘rebirth’ through practiced anarchy periodically, there is nothing wrong with their proposed system. Of course it ALL may be hogwash. In that event, we’re fucked no matter which way we go.]

 

[Coming: “Capitalism and Predation – Synonyms”]

(SPECIAL EDITORIAL) ‘For the Children’: Enough already!

In Editorial, Lifestyle on April 2, 2013 at 9:33 am

“As a result, I have five-gallon plastic buckets emblazoned with warnings that they may cause drowning if a tot falls headfirst into one. My newest window blinds were festooned with so many warning stickers that, once hung, the warning literature obviated the need for the shades entirely. My garden hose came with a sticker (which I promptly tore off) warning me not to drink from it because it contained ‘substances known to the State of California to cause cancer’.”

 

Shanda Boone and Jamie Geneser experienced an unimaginable tragedy two years ago when their 4-year old daughter fell out of a third floor window and suffered fatal injuries in the fall.

Now, Boone and Geneser have embarked on a crusade. They have taken up the cause to coerce and cajole Iowa lawmakers into passing ‘Hannah’s Law’. And, as with similar laws designed to ‘protect the children’, it is likely to spread like a prairie fire across the entire nation.

Hannah’s Law would mandate installation of fall resistant window screens on multifamily, multilevel homes. Also under the proposed law, if fall-resistant screens are not installed, it would mandate that the windows on such homes be restricted from opening more than four inches.

After every child death and tragedy, there emerges a new crop of laws and regulations intended to stop similar, ‘senseless’ deaths. Parents and loved ones seek to turn their grief into something positive by forcing someone else to do something ‘to keep this from happening to someone else’.

I understand it. I sympathize. And I understand the psychological mechanics behind such attempts. Grief counselors typically recommend activism as therapy for the bereaved.

[NOTE: Mothers Against Drunk Driving emerged via this mechanism and has since morphed into a contemporary Women’s Christian Temperance Union bent on abolishing the use of alcohol as a beverage.]

But such efforts are wrong. They are akin to forcing an entire community into a funeral cortege under penalty of law. Unfortunately, the press flocks to these human interest stories like moths around an August porch light and give unwitting support to yet another senseless, burdensome, and futile law.

Futile? How?

There are millions of ways to die or to be maimed. It is futile to attempt to prevent all of them. In an unfortunate choice of methods to assuage their grief, parents and loved ones of deceased children subsequently seek all sorts of new eponymic laws specific to preventing the unpreventable. There are even laws bearing the name of beloved, deceased pets.

As a result, I have five-gallon plastic buckets emblazoned with warnings that they may cause drowning if a tot falls headfirst into one. My newest window blinds were festooned with so many warning stickers that, once hung, the warning literature obviated the need for the shades entirely. My garden hose came with a sticker (which I promptly tore off) warning me not to drink from it because it contained ‘substances known to the State of California to cause cancer’.

[One wonders where kids playing ‘fort’ now get their water? Actually, children don’t’ play ‘fort’ anymore. The kids are all inside, punching buttons on a computer game or iPod and drinking bottled vitamin water. PD]

I condole with Boone and Geneser. I sympathize.

But I want to open my windows. I don’t want thick screens on them that block the light and keep out the air.

If I wanted them, I would buy them. If I had small, rowdy children I would definitely look into them for my home.

If Boone and Geneser were to embark on an educational campaign to make parents aware of window locks and fall-resistant screens, I would be in the gallery cheering them. But seeking to legislate their use and installation will only paint us further into a corner where we are free to do anything as long as it is 100% risk-free.

Ms. Boone and Mr. Geneser, you have done your community a great service. Your daughter’s untimely death motivated you to make your neighbors aware of a risk that took her from you. But it is time to move on, to mourn, to heal, and to leave the rest of us to our fates.

No matter how irresponsible and dangerous that may seem to you.