Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More About Money

Mark likes this idea from Benjamin Barber of Demos: Give banks vouchers that must be used within three months for a set handful of purposes. Hard to see a downside.

On the school side of things, the IJ published a chart telling how much federal money the schools in the area would receive without publishing a caveat explaining that the money is specifically targeted, and schools may very possibly not be able to use much of it. It depends on the school and each school's particular programs and needs--much as Dryden for years was assumed to have an extra several tens of thousands of dollars that was earmarked for Pre-K, a program we didn't have. So don't believe everything you read.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Required Reading

Nationalizing banks is as "American as apple pie," quoth our Nobel-Prize-winning economist.
Lately the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been seizing banks it deems insolvent at the rate of about two a week. When the F.D.I.C. seizes a bank, it takes over the bank’s bad assets, pays off some of its debt, and resells the cleaned-up institution to private investors. And that’s exactly what advocates of temporary nationalization want to see happen, not just to the small banks the F.D.I.C. has been seizing, but to major banks that are similarly insolvent.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Who Will Be Next?

You know things are in a death spiral when half the population fear losing their jobs. As a freelancer, I'm used to the feast-or-famine ways of educational publishing, but seeing everyone else in a panic makes me tense. And yes, we're among that three-quarters who know someone who's been laid off.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gaza Children's Appeal

Mark suggested that I post this link, and in honor of his birthday, I will.
Life for children in the Gaza Strip continues to deteriorate. Shortages of electricity, fuel, safe water and sanitation are having a serious impact on the lives of women and children and the recent conflict is adding to their suffering.

The population of Gaza has now become totally dependent on humanitarian aid for its survival. There are shortages of foodstuffs including flour, rice, sugar, dairy products, milk, canned foods and fresh meats. Last year, 1.4 million Palestinians were estimated to be food insecure.

The health system is overwhelmed, having already been weakened by the 18 month blockade.

Utilities are barely functioning: the only electric power plant has shut down. At the moment, hospitals are relying on back-up generators. The breakdown of these generators would pose a serious risk to public health.

The water system provides running water just once every five to seven days. The sanitation system cannot treat sewage and is dumping 40 million litres of raw sewage into the sea daily.
Click here to help.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Look Out Below

This is rather sad and sudden, although anyone who's walked around Beebe Lake in the past 30 years had to predict its occurrence. I really liked the creepiness of this shell of a building, not to mention respecting the chore it must have been to build.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

Top Chef! O turned us on to it; now we're all hooked. For my birthday, Paul and O managed to find the last copy of their cookbook left in NYS. They had to drive to Elmira to get it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Required Reading

No matter how bad you think things are, Krugman thinks they're worse.
For this is a broad-based mess. Everyone talks about the problems of the banks, which are indeed in even worse shape than the rest of the system. But the banks aren’t the only players with too much debt and too few assets; the same description applies to the private sector as a whole.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The house across the street burned (partway) to the ground last night, unbeknownst to us (although the dogs did bark a lot). The article here and Paul's chat with the fire marshall this morning raise more questions than they answer: 1) Why would you have a ceramic heater going in an empty house? 2) How in the world do you derive an assessment of $145K on a house that you can replace with an investment of $30K?

When I first moved here, this house, which is politely described as "ranch-style" in the article, was barely a hovel, approximately one room in size, and inhabited by a very old man who did not take kindly to visitors. I believe it stands where there was once a one-room schoolhouse, and perhaps some part of the house was that original structure. After he died in the house, it was taken over by a woman with several apparently unrelated children and then three or four years ago by the Thomases and their son. They made several improvements, expanding the house by a couple of rooms, adding siding, etc. Still, there is no way in the world $145K is a reasonable assessment for something that is smaller than most trailers and sits on a swamp. If there's a septic system, it's certainly illegal.

I'm glad the Thomases were out of there. I hope they found a better situation, and I really hope there's nothing suspicious about the fire.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Reading List

You probably think of 1960s spies when you see his name, but that's not all he has to offer. He is to post-Berlin-Wall Europe what Faulkner was to the post-Reconstruction South. And still going strong at age 77+.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lincoln Speech Sells

I stopped by the library to renew my John Le Carre book, and the librarian, who is lovely but always very serious, actually grinned at me when I asked whether the Lincoln inaugural speech sold. $3.4 million, of which the library gets at least $3 million. Hooray!


Bill sends this, which was drawn over 15 years ago yet seems so relevant today. Click on it to read it more easily.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Word Play

Lara sent this, which won an award in AARP's You @ 50 competition.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Nail Biter

If you don't think this election matters, think again.

Another One Bites the Dust

This time, it's the house that just signed DZ to a two-book contract.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Too Little, Too Lame

And now Krugman says the Obama strategy backfired and the stimulus plan won't work.
Mr. Obama’s postpartisan yearnings may also explain why he didn’t do something crucially important: speak forcefully about how government spending can help support the economy. Instead, he let conservatives define the debate, waiting until late last week before finally saying what needed to be said — that increasing spending is the whole point of the plan.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Keeping Score

CNN has a nice list of what got cut from the Senate version of the stimulus plan. C believes it's a philosophical thing--the GOP won't fund programs they don't support ideologically, no matter what the consequences might be. Thus the cuts to Head Start and the National Science Foundation, not to mention hybrid vehicles for the feds. My favorite: the cut of $100 million for "science."

School boards who are counting on federal dollars to get us over this hump should note the cuts to Title I, school nutrition, and school construction. Perhaps more important is the $40 billion reduction to states and localities. Ouch.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

To Caucus or Not to Caucus

Marty Luster and Barbara Mink signed today's letter to the editor regarding the usefulness of caucusing.

As someone who serves on a deliberative body for which caucusing is forbidden, I have to say, I don't get it. We air our ignorance in public biweekly. If people don't want to listen to us, they don't. Often, through these lengthy and heated discussions, we change each other's minds. In public!

The only difference I can see is that we're not partisan. Each of us is elected to serve the entire district. That certainly doesn't mean we don't represent particular points of view, but we don't feel compelled (and legally are not allowed) to present a united front prior to the public discussion that leads to a vote. Despite this, by the end of our discussion, we fairly often are unanimous.

Maybe for a very large body, this doesn't make sense. Nevertheless, it is the only way I can see to be truly representative of the people. I am very careful to alert our troops when I fear we're veering out of executive session topics during executive session, because I'm passionate about the public's right to know. I don't think explaining a vote after the fact (and how often does that really happen?) can ever take the place of making one's very thought process transparent through public airing of differences.

In this I disagree with many of my friends in the Party. Too bad.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Gigapan Inauguration

This is making the rounds, and it's worth a view. You can zoom in to see the smallest details. Give it a few seconds to resolve each time. Truly amazing technology.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

For Sale: One Lincoln Victory Speech

And in this lot, we have the 1864 Lincoln Victory Speech, being sold by our own Southworth Library, which received it from a Congressman's widow by way of Lincoln's son. No suggested opening bid, but it's expected to draw between $3 and $4 million. Why not make your own offer today!? On sale 2/12.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Postgame Nausea

As if my stomach weren't already roiling after the Super Bowl feast we ingested last night, now comes this news from Boston via Simon, announcing the imminent demise of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt due to crushing debt.

DZ started her publishing career with a division of HM, and I finished my in-house career with five years at Harcourt before they moved to FL. Both of us have worked from time to time since on projects for one or the other. Their departure will leave a gaping hole in school publishing. I'd heard things were bad, but I didn't know how bad, or why.