Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Filk Song of the Week

                 SIMPLE CARBS.     (Sung to the tune of Simple Gifts)

Tis a curse to be simple;
Tis a curse to be sweet.
Tis a curse which makes our diet incomplete.
And when we find ourselves with a food that's right,
We'll be in the valley of tofu delight.
Burn, burn, that extra calorie.
By burning and burning we long to be free.
And when we burn it off to a weight that's right,
We'll be in the valley of tofu delight.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Looming Lineman Shortage

    There is an interesting piece in the June issue of The Electrical Worker, the official publication of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  (Click on the above link and then see California Local Prods Regulators to Confront Utility Worker Shortage.)  It seems that for many years, utility companies have cranked up short term profits by cutting back on apprenticeship training programs, and so recruitment has failed to keep pace with retirement.  In the U.S. as a whole, by 2013 nearly a third of all utility workers will be eligible  for retirement, and in some local areas, understaffing is already a problem. The regulatory boards which supervise this industry have a legal mandate to insure that utilities have sufficient facilities and manpower to maintain reliable service, both for the present and for the foreseeable future.   In some areas, local unions are now petitioning these boards, demanding an investigation as to whether recruitment and training are now adequate for projected future needs.
   This is amazing.   For a union to demand that more workers be taken in--to compete for overtime with the present workforce--is quite  unusual.   But the understaffing in some areas has become a serious safety concern. Linemen's work is inherently dangerous,  and to do it while undermanned only increases the risk. And besides, these workers take pride in providing their costumers with reliable service, 24/7.  And the understaffing in some areas has made this all but impossible.

Note:   Looking for a career?   If you are a physically robust young man who thinks he has a bent for science and technology,  why not be a lineman?   No college degree is required.  You will work on the job and also attend college level classes, but all training is provided, and you are paid wages from day one. And once you finish your apprenticeship, you will earn good wages and have a steady job for the rest of your working life.  That's the good part.  But it is extremely challenging physically and technically. You will often work during ice storms and blizzards--and whenever a flood, tornado, or other natural disaster strikes, the line crews are first responders.  But if you want a highly respected job that will test your manhood (or womanhood) to the limit, this is it.    For information, call any IBEW office and they will refer you to the appropriate  people.  Or visit  WWW.IBEW.ORG

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Conspiracy of Silence

    The June 14th online edition of Nation Magazine has a short piece by Ryan Rafaty called The Five Smartest Congressional Bills You've Never Heard Of.  He lists five very good bills that never made it out of committee.   Some of these pieces had bi-partisan support and, according to polls,  would have been  supported by a wide majority of Americans;  but they died in committee and you've never heard of them.  Why?  Put simply, a conspiracy of silence.  Had the public been aware of these bills, Congress would have been under intense public pressure to act on them. But with a mainstream media blackout,  this never happened.  Because our mainstream media outlets are owned by corporations controlled by the same Wall Street moguls that own the rest of this country.  And any bill that aims to help Main Street at the expense of Wall Street  is carefully ignored to death.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Limerick of the Day, Jun 14

Another experience with gout!
(It makes a man want to "check out")
From dawn until dusk,
This frail human husk,
Gives ever more reason to pout.

This time it isn't my toe
That causes such grief and such woe,
But my lower right thumb.
(I wish it were numb.)
Nor can it be moved to and froe.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Real Crisis for Spain and Greece.

   In the Jun 6th issue of Nation Magazine, Mark Weisbrot has a piece called SOLVING THE EURO CRISIS.  He explains that the real problem for Spain, Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, is simply that they are stuck in a deep recession, but their ties to the European Currency Union have not allowed them to follow the expansionary policies required to get out of that recession. Right now Spain has over 20% unemployment,  and if all of those people were working and paying taxes, there would be no problem.  Since the collapse of the bubble, (a collapse that none of these countries had anything to do with) most other countries have had either an expansionary monetary policy or a fiscal stimulus, or both.  The US Fed has created over 2 trillion dollars since the recession began.   And some countries have depreciated their currency to help their export industries.   But the European Central Bank is far more conservative than the Fed, and is committed to a strong Euro and balanced budgets. So the budget cuts which the ECB, the IMF, and the European Commission are demanding of these countries will only make the recession worse.  Their only hope is through increased exports, but since they are tied to the Euro, there is not much they can do on this front.  And considering the sluggish pace of the recovery everywhere,  the odds that exports will increase anytime soon are dim.
    Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal on Jun 8th has a piece by Richard Barley, Euro-Zone Cuts Face World of Pain, in which he says  the same thing.    It is pretty rare for periodicals as far to the left as Nation, and as far to the right as Wall Street Journal to agree on any kind of economic analysis.  But they both agree that the austerity being imposed by the IMF and the ECB will only make things worse.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Limerick of the Day, Jun 8

There once was an amiable yokel,
whose speech was entirely vocal.
This may sound like hyperbole,
But he spoke only verbally,
And his accent was markedly local.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why We Have College

     The June 6 issue of the New Yorker has an article by Louis Menand entitled Live and learn,  and subtitled, Why We Have College.   The questions he raises are mostly the same ones raised in my post of April 1, entitled Should Education be sold as Job Training?   In my post I asked whether college is to be sold as a job training program,  or does college exist to teach those skills we need to live successful lives, but are not likely to learn anywhere else.
    Menand approaches the subject from the opposite perspective of that taken in my post.   I wrote as a retired person recalling an argument I had with a professor when I entered college, over a half century ago. Menand, a retired professor who has taught at Harvard and also at CUNY, begins by recalling an argument with a student a half century ago.  But he asks the same questions--and adds yet another.  In addition the the two possible functions of college which I cited, he also suggests that a college curriculum may be merely an arbitrary set of hoops we force students to jump through as a way of separating the incompetent from the competent--a sort of four year IQ test.  As such, a college is merely a credentialing service.
     I discussed the article with a retired professor of my acquaintance, and I had assumed that he would dismiss out of hand the idea that curriculum content is arbitrarily chosen. But he did not.  He thought that all three supposed functions of college may have some validity, including the "credentialing" function. He cited as evidence the fact that often people who earn a PhD in some abstruse field never secure a job in that field, but are offered a position in some other field.  By earning the PhD, they proved that they are capable of dealing with complex material, and were therefore qualified for the job.  Take a look at Menand's piece if you have any interest in the direction of higher education. (Note:  This link runs a little slow, but be patient and you'll get there.) And then check out my post of April 1.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Daiichi limericks, June 2

A Japanese monster, Godzilla,
Ate ice cream, but mostly vanilla.
Not so bold or so spunky
To try chunky-monkey,
He still relished the chunky-gorilla.

But the monster's first cousin, Daiichi,
Has some flavors a little less peachy.
We'll be eating that dust,
"California or Bust,"
Over time, the long isotopes reach ye.