Birthday food jackpot

First, one of my friends took me to breakfast at the Hinge Cafe on Saturday and I ordered oatmeal. I wasn’t expecting anything great — to me, oatmeal is a healthy food that’s okay, but no great treat. So I looked at this BIG bowl of oatmeal and thought, “I’m never going to finish all that.”

Well! This oatmeal was amazing. It tasted like a creamy bowl of Cinnabon. “This isn’t oatmeal. This is a bowl of happiness and sunshine,” I said. And I ate every last drop.

Then my brother and SIL took me out to Johnny Brenda’s, where I had Cajun fish stew with andouille sausage, and then a pumpkin tart for dessert. Fish stew is one of those things I just love, because it has all my favorites in one bowl: shrimp, clams, and potatoes in a spicy red broth. Mmm!

But wait, there’s more!

My best friend Paulette took me back to the Hinge Cafe for Sunday brunch, where I weaseled an approximation of the oatmeal recipe out of the owner. (She was reluctant, but I played the birthday card. I still think she left something out, though.) Then I had eggs Benedict with applewood smoked bacon. I just love eggs Benedict.

Last night, I had dinner with Paulette and Cos at Silk City, where I had this hand-rolled pasta with short ribs in cream sauce. We split some caramel-apple pie a la mode for dessert. Rarely have I had such a string of superb meals.

It’s funny, though; I really do have a much diminished taste for sugar now. It’ll be interesting to see how that develops.

Are oil companies bribing Gulf states to ignore spill?

Does a bear shit in the woods? From Whowhat why.com, how the oil lobby and the politicians are working to increase our tolerance of high-risk drilling. Go read it.

But here’s the part that really struck me:

Of course, contrary to what the Los Angeles Times asserts, the real reason the lawmakers support the move is NOT their concern to reduce dependence on foreign oil. It is to increase our tolerance for risky domestic drilling.


If you doubt there’s more to it, consider who feathers Sen. Mary Landrieu’s nest. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the vast majority of her campaign contributions from 2007-2012 ($2.5 million) came from  law firms, lobbyists, and the oil and gas industry. Guess who is one of the biggest clients of law firms and lobbyists? The oil and gas industry. It’s a safe bet that without doing that industry’s bidding, Mary Landrieu is toast. So she has to promote measures like this that do harm to the public interest and produce more profits for the dominant industry in her area.


It’s not that Mary Landrieu is a good or a bad person, any more than any of her Gulf Coast colleagues, of both parties, who also support this move. It’s that the system is so dirty. And that the public doesn’t have a media that can afford to just tell it to us straight—in such a way as to make us care, and make us want to actually do something about it.


Bet that, without public understanding of what is at stake, the very people who have a reason to fight against more offshore drilling in the gulf will be out there arguing for it.

And that’s the entire system, in a nutshell. Makes me shudder.

Gun safety

When you think about it, “gun safe” is kind of an oxymoron. Nothing safe about this gun safe! Sounds like it was a problem with gunpowder storage, since guns don’t typically explode, left to their own devices. (I have a family member who was badly burned at an indoor firing range when gunpowder on the floor ignited a fireball, so I pay attention to the danger it presents.) I hope Mrs. Wood comes out of this okay, and I also hope this horrible incident reminds people to treat gunpowder with the extreme caution it demands:

An Idaho state representative’s wife was injured Saturday after a room converted to a gun safe exploded at her home.

Amy Wood, wife of Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, as taken by air ambulance to an unspecified Utah hospital suffering from second-degree burns to her face and hands.

The incident occurred at 8:11 p.m., according to Burley Fire Chief Keith Martin. On Saturday evening, Martin said the owners of the home at 100 S. 147 E. were eating dinner when “they heard a sound like a 747 coming from the basement.”

Martin said an explosion from a room that was converted to a gun safe lifted up the patio slab at the back of the home and collapsed the patio roof. Martin said the patio slab appeared to be the roof of the gun safe room. Amy Wood was on the patio when the explosion occurred. The cause of the explosion is unknown at this time.

The alleged IT talent shortage

These New York Times reporters are either dumb — or lazy. Here’s a story about how tech companies are training up a new generation of workers because of a shortage of technical talent. They never even bother to investigate whether there’s a discrepancy between what companies tell them, and the qualifications of laid off workers:

There are likely to be 150,000 computing jobs opening up each year through 2020, according to an analysis of federal forecasts by the Association for Computing Machinery, a professional society for computing researchers. But despite the hoopla around start-up celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, fewer than 14,000 American students received undergraduate degrees in computer science last year, the Computing Research Association estimates. And the wider job market remains weak.

“People can’t get jobs, and we have jobs that can’t be filled,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel who oversees its philanthropic efforts, said in a recent interview.

Big technology companies have complained for years about a dearth of technical talent, a problem they have tried to solve by lobbying for looser immigration rules to accommodate more foreign engineers and sponsoring tech competitions to encourage student interest in the industry. Google, for one, holds a programming summer camp for incoming ninth graders and underwrites an effort called CS4HS, in which high school teachers sharpen their computer science skills in workshops at local universities.

Anyone who’s been around the IT industry knows what a bunch of horse hockey this is. From the Global Affairs blog:

The so called “shortage” is a self made shortage by the companies who want to hire the knowledge at cut rate prices. Individuals in their 40s and 50s find themselves increasingly locked out of jobs they can easily do because the company doesn’t want to pay them for that experience. Even when individuals are desperate for that job, and are willing to take any pay just so they can work, it’s a rare occurrence indeed to be even granted an interview. And the longer one is unemployed, the worse it gets as now the company will claim that you’ve been out of the field too long and aren’t current on today’s technology.

So the next time you see some CEO crying about how it’s so damned difficult to fill their spots, stop and think about what they’re really saying. What they really mean is they’re unable to find some kid who can do the job for peanuts and don’t want to hire anyone out of the existing glut of unemployed tech experts who would kill for just an interview.

Norman Matloff, a professor of computer science at UC Davis, puts it this way:

But won’t those laid-off HP engineers be snapped up by the booming tech sector? Many will not.

The tech job market is excellent for younger workers, but many of those who are laid off and over 35 will find the market less welcoming. They’re perceived as too expensive. The HP layoff will consist disproportionately of older workers. Indeed, jettisoning the veterans is often the hidden agenda in mass layoffs. It’s no coincidence that many of the U.S. core engineering openings at HP have titles like Recent Graduate, Intern and Post Doc, all aimed at the younger crowd.

The difficulties of older techies have been investigated statistically in studies at American University and the National Research Council, but a very public human face was placed on this recently in an online town hall meeting with President Obama.

The wife of electrical engineer Darin Wedel explained to the president that her husband has never found a permanent job after being laid off by the electronics giant Texas Instruments. Granted, family issues restricted him to the Dallas area, but if the hype regarding a seller’s market for engineers were true, Wedel should have been able to find something in that region, which sadly has not been the case.

We’ve seen it over and over. Tech companies insist Americans can’t fill their positions (at slave wages), so they push for more H-1B visas for workers who are willing to work for much lower salaries. And so it goes in our brave new world.

The real referendum

Krugman reminds us that if reelected, Obama’s victory “will be a clear reassertion of support for the safety net, and a clear rejection of politicians who want to return us to the Gilded Age.” But he points out the pressure from Beltway insiders for the Grand Bargain will be overwhelming:

And Mr. Obama should just say no, for three reasons.


First, despite years of dire warnings from people like, well, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, we are not facing any kind of fiscal crisis. Indeed, U.S. borrowing costs are at historic lows, with investors actually willing to pay the government for the privilege of owning inflation-protected bonds. So reducing the budget deficit just isn’t the top priority for America at the moment; creating jobs is. For now, the administration’s political capital should be devoted to passing something like last year’s American Jobs Act and providing effective mortgage debt relief.


Second, contrary to Beltway conventional wisdom, America does not have an “entitlements problem.” Mainly, it has a health cost problem, private as well as public, which must be addressed (and which the Affordable Care Act at least starts to address). It’s true that there’s also, even aside from health care, a gap between the services we’re promising and the taxes we’re collecting — but to call that gap an “entitlements” issue is already to accept the very right-wing frame that voters appear to be in the process of rejecting.


Finally, despite the bizarre reverence it inspires in Beltway insiders — the same people, by the way, who assured us that Paul Ryan was a brave truth-teller — the fact is that Simpson-Bowles is a really bad plan, one that would undermine some key pieces of our safety net. And if a re-elected president were to endorse it, he would be betraying the trust of the voters who returned him to office.


Consider, in particular, the proposal to raise the Social Security retirement age, supposedly to reflect rising life expectancy. This is an idea Washington loves — but it’s also totally at odds with the reality of an America in which rising inequality is reflected not just in the quality of life but in its duration. For while average life expectancy has indeed risen, that increase is confined to the relatively well-off and well-educated — the very people who need Social Security least. Meanwhile, life expectancy is actually falling for a substantial part of the nation.


Now, there’s no mystery about why Simpson-Bowles looks the way it does. It was put together in a political environment in which progressives, and even supporters of the safety net as we know it, were very much on the defensive — an environment in which conservatives were presumed to be in the ascendant, and in which bipartisanship was effectively defined as the effort to broker deals between the center-right and the hard right.


Barring an upset, however, that environment will come to an end on Nov. 6. This election is, as I said, shaping up as a referendum on our social insurance system, and it looks as if Mr. Obama will emerge with a clear mandate for preserving and extending that system. It would be a terrible mistake, both politically and for the nation’s future, for him to let himself be talked into snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Site Meter