Thursday, July 30, 2009

note from Dig S re:Obama

He could be pushing health care reform more aggressively with Blue Dog Democrats - and get them in line. But that's not his style. Nor did he have the 'Hammer' in the House to get people in line. Democrats are like herding cats.

Think Obama overstepped himself getting involved with a local issue of the cop arresting the black professor. I think the cop handled the public spotlight quite well.

I now feel like bailing out the banks was the wrong step. Too big to fail was the method deployed in the twilight years of Bush only to be continued by Obama. I think Wachovia and some of those other banks should have failed.

Thursday Morning Smile-Maker

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2 items of disgusting news.

Dozens arrested in Medicare fraud busts across US
Jul 29 03:05 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer
MIAMI (AP) - Federal authorities arrested more than 30 suspects, including doctors, and were seeking others in a major Medicare fraud bust Wednesday in New York, Louisiana, Boston and Houston, targeting scams such as "arthritis kits"—expensive braces that many patients never used.

More Than A Dozen Shot In Chicago Overnight

7 Victims In One Attack; Total Of 15 Hurt Over Four Hours

At least 15 people were shot and wounded in Chicago overnight, seven of them in a single incident on the city's West Side.

Vacation notes

There are loons on Douglas Lake. It surprises me somewhat because I had heard that loons avoid humans and their noise-making as much as possible. But the lake is beautiful and a good share of it is undeveloped because it is controlled by the University of Michigan which maintains a biological research station there. Loons can evidently find enough solitude and peace of wing to stay there.

It was the first time we have ever really been able to watch the antics of loons, even though it was more good luck than good planning when we saw them on the lake.

We checked out some prices on places for sale. It doesn't appear that the depression has had much of an effect on prices --- at least on asking prices.

There are many wonderful places left in northern Michigan to find peace and quiet, natural beauty, and an escape from the helter-skelter world most of us have every day. But our children's children won't be that lucky. THey'll have to seek wilderness elsewhere; it's disappearing fast.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's Caturday!

belongs to Dashmann and Skuzza

Friday, July 24, 2009

No party to go to

I was talking to SPARTY over a beer today - well,actually he had his and I had mine, so technically it was over two beers - and he remarked that he seemed to be no longer thinking of himself as a Democrat.

Maybe he will write a message for BIRCHES in which he explains his thinking on this, but I think I shouldn't be making his case for him.

I had stopped calling myself a Democrat a couple of years ago, and so I understand Sparty's impulse. I haven't contributed any money to any candidate or to any party for at least five years. People will tell me that just because I'm not happy with the party these days, it's no reason to abandon it. Obviously, I disagree with that notion.

As it is, there is no viable political force that really represents a lot of people who think of themselves as "progressives" or even as liberals. The Democrats have been so cowed by a few pressure groups, or they are so much in the pocket of some powerful economic interests, that they can no longer represent those who are honest, well-meaning, generous, and intelligent.

new hero for BIRCHES

DYLAN RATIGAN - who is preaching on his MSNBC program "Morning Meeting" that the banks pulled off the greatest theft in history and stuck the American people with the cost. And what change has been made by the Obama Administration to reform the method of business among the banks: Nothing!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

seen on the 'net

survey results

Everyone I know is busy these days. I want to thank everyone who took time to answer the survey question. The results don't surprise me at all, and I doubt if they will surprise anyone else. What I didn't get was an unbridled enthusiastic 10 from anyone.

Here was the question -
I am sending this to people I know --- or am pretty certain --- voted for Obama, as I did. When a reasonable time has gone by, I'll compose the answers I receive into a posting for Birches.

I plan to use your first name unless you want something else. You can remain anonymous if you want. Just let me know.
As of July 20, President Obama will have completed 1/2 year in office. Looking at his Presidency so far, would you say he has done as well as you had expected, or less well than you had expected? Have you been disappointed in his efforts at all?
[If it helps, you could use a scale like 0 - 10, with 10 being great and 0 being terrible.]
Here were the answers -

MARSHA: To me the question isn’t how well he’s done. He has clearly stubbed his toe a few times, but overall he’s done great and represented us in a way that is finally not a global embarrassment. What is disappointing—though not unexpected—is the unrelenting partisanship, sniping, recalcitrance etc. of all this politics as usual in Washington. It sickens me.

TRASE: I'll say an 8.

ANON: I expected more change and more courage. In foreign affairs he's great. It seems to me he has backed down on a lot of things like closing Guantanamo and a good health plan. It remains to be seen if he'll be the man I thought I voted for.

SCOT: I would give him a 7.

Obviously, I think he's a huge improvement over the Bushies. But I think he's taken on too many projects at once. I also think he has been somewhat less enlightened than he had promised to be. After talking a good game about transparency and openness, he has actually continued some of the Bush Administration's secrecy policies, and his Justice Department is following through on a number of lawsuits which the Bushies started which take very right-wing stances on executive power. His Administration has mused about holding some of the Guantanamo detainees indefinitely, even if they are tried in tribunals and found not guilty.

I don't think the financial crisis was his doing, and I don't think the current unemployment crisis is his fault. But it soon will be, and I don't think the stimulus he pushed and signed into law was well-built. Now, I think the health care bill looks like it will fail to make real reforms because it was rushed into the agenda.

BOB: "As well as expected"? I'm not sure what that means to me. I didn't expect any miracles in 6 months so I'm not disappointed in his "performance" at this point. However, I do think he's not taking advantage of a historic moment that doesn't come along very often - and doesn't last long. People like Paul Krugman thought Obama was too cautious in February in failing to ask for a sufficiently large stimulus spending plan when he had overwhelming public support. Now he's probably going to come back to Congress for more money but without the momentum he had in the winter. I also fear that he'll take a similarly cautious/pragmatic course on health care reform and miss a real opportunity to make a fundamental change in the system.

Disappointed? His continuation/defense of many of the Bush "executive prerogative" positions really pisses me off.

SANDY; I would give him an 8 out of 10, because we finally have an intelligent, well-spoken president who is capable of earning the respect of other world leaders. I believed him when he said there was no easy fix to the problems we face as a nation, and I believe we are heading in the right direction. It bothers me a bit that he is so hard on the auto makers, after the bailout of the financial big whigs with no strings attached, while the little guys in the union are the ones making all the concessions (or so it seems from my viewpoint). I still believe (after 6 months) that he is the best chance we have to address some of the serious issues facing our nation today.

JERRY: I’m no longer excited about what he promised and what he is proposing. My anticipation has worn thin as I have seen few results.
The promises are still rolling out of Washington for more “change.” I’m still waiting to see my IRA and 403B make a change upward. I’m becoming a little fearful of his unbridled spending proposals, seeing few if any results yet.

I don’t have a good feeling about the public’s 60% ownership of GM as I don’t believe government is an efficient manager of any program due to lack of oversight, innovation and possible abuse. I’m fearful that it will become another plum ripe for abuse by some of the powers in charge.

Unemployment remains at an all time high with little hope of a short term turn-around in Michigan. Housing sales have yet to pick up and more “For Rent” signs seem to appear daily as people leave our area for jobs elsewhere.

On the ongoing world military engagements, I see the “changes” as merely a shift from one country to another.

Money being spent on homeland defense seems to be a joke. Reports of tests of bypassing government building safeguards with bomb making supplies last week show how little has been accomplished by the spending on the program. On a positive note, I dutifully went out and spent my $250 stimulus money. With interest rates remaining at such a measly amount, why let it sit in an account and shrink in value?

As I read back over what I have just written, I think I have become more cynical trying to think of anything positive to say. (Maybe it’s also the cold weather that’s depressing me.)

I’ll give him an 8/10 for trying and a 2/10 for any positive changes I have seen. (Now I’m more depressed)

PAT C: I'd give him a 10 for his Supreme Court nominee. His vetting of
appointments in the beginning @ 4-5; attempting to work with both sides
of the aisle: another 10. Dealing with Wall Street & GM @ 5 ( the
scoundrels are still leaving with millions). His attempt at civil
discourse with other nations 10, his dedication to finding a health
care solution 10. I'd rather have him at the helm any time. I give him
another 10 for the way his family handles being in the White House and
their genuine affection for one another which is very visible. Pat

PAM: I would give him at 8 out of 10. I have been very pleased with his policy statements and what he is trying to accomplish. He can't do things alone, but the leadership he provides is such a breath of fresh air. I'm proud to have voted for him. So many people have wanted our country to stand for something good and Obama has set us in the right direction for that with foreign policy and domestic. We need nationalized health care so much. I just hope the insurance companies can be kept away from leadership positions in whatever is decided.

BUD: Like most of you, I would give him an 8, also. That's like a "B" in teacher terms. In handling the economy, I'm still reluctant to score him well. In dealing with other countries and reasserting a positive American image, I think he's done very well. Like Pam, I'm glad I voted for him, and it's wonderful to have someone to look at on the news everyday who I essentially trust and I believe will do well. I wish he was more liberal than he's turning out to be. I absolutely dislike, although I was willing to accept, the bailouts of financial institutions and the automakers. Like Bob, I hate every sign from him that looks or sounds like Bush.

I do know that the Congress is in terrible shape. This makes it hard to work toward a real set of changes. None of that mess is his fault.

Best headline of the day

Report finds bloat at University of North Carolina

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Meander, item 2

We went to Ann Arbor for this year's street art fair, which is a big deal because there are so many artists displaying their works, and so many different types of artistry and craftsmanship to choose from. Here again we were reminded of the sad state of the Michigan economy. I spoke to a few of the exhibitors and asked how the show was going. They said they were having good sales, but not as good, maybe, as sometimes in the past, though there were still days to go. We also noticed that even though were hundreds and hundreds of exhibitors, there were fewer than last year.

Ann Arbor like East Lansing and I guess most University towns, is growing and bustling, unlike many cities around the country -- and especially in our G.M. abandoned state -- and therefore, a bit old-fashioned in atmosphere. The notion of busy downtowns and lots of people and vehicles, is not the standard notion for many towns these days. Michigan is filled with cities like Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac, and others, where life has been dealt a cruel blow, first by the white flight of the 60's and 70's, and then by the fickle industry which found its patriotism modified by its need for foreign adventure.

Tuesday Meander, item 1

1. We walked into "The Corner Brewery" in Ypislanti recently because we were with convivial people we love, and they were treating us to a new experience, and we all like a good tavern. Walking into the joint, you would never suspect the place is operated by maniacs. Its outward appearance is that of a jolly watering hole --spacious, cheerful, and not smokey. There was not a large crowd, but those who were there were young, happy, and well behaved, and there was not a drunken sot anywhere in the purlieu.

But to place an order, either for the beer or the food, a customer has to approach the bar and pass muster. Everyone is carded! Even an old fart like me who hasn't been mistaken for a youth in at least a century and a half. So when, the bartenderess explained that she could sell me two drinks at a time, but first she had to see my I.D. I said, naturally, "You're kidding." On her pretty face was the smile of the super-confident young lady who can account for herself even in a rough crowd. "No, I'm not kidding," says she, "that's the rule." Whose rule, I ask, knowing that my driver's license is right there in my pocket and can be produced in less time than it takes to whack-a-mole. "The Manager's rule," she says. "That's our policy."

"You're nuts," I say, smilingly and without invective. It was merely an observation as valid as commenting for example on the falling rain, or the creepiness of Mitch McConnell. But those two little words had the effect of changing her demeanor.

We spent the rest of the time in the place (a) enjoying ourselves (b) giving beer to a 60-something lady who had no I.D. and couldn't be served, and (c) trying to understand how anyone could get in trouble legally, morally, or even in the abstract, by selling a beer to a sober senior citizen.

Now I'm tempted to go off on the tangent about silly people making silly rules, or expounding on how power corrupts, or noting that with greater position comes a greater tendency to be tyrannical. Instead I'll just say that the rules were easy to foil, the day was a wonderful one, and I thank God to have been blessed with a witty tongue.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Recommended viewing: A slideshow of the Moon Landing

Goodbye Frank McCourt

In many ways, he was the exemplar of the Irish-American.

IRISH MIKE writes: "Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, died at 78, yesterday. McCourt grew up in poverty in Limerick Ireland, emigrated to NY and taught high school English until retirement. After retirement he wrote Angela's Ashes, 'Tis, and Teacher Man. Maybe we need to have a small wake in his honor."


Seen at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair.
Peace still deserves a place in University towns.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Panamanian player Gabriel Gomez "misses the ball" and gets American Robbie Rogers instead.

Friday, July 17, 2009

passing thought

It seems to me that Obama's stimulus package has been a huge success for some people: The Thieves. They always find a way, don't they? I see that the big banks are turning multi-billion dollar earnings these days, and rewarding their henchmen with colossal new paychecks and perks.

I have long advocated the use of guillotines for the Wall Street fat cats and their attendant alley cats, whose loyalties are not religious nor political nor moral. As I heard one gentleman remark on TV the other day: "The Wall Street management model is not a good one."

Off with their goddamn heads!

today's favorite headline

N. Woodmere motivational speaker found dead in Harlem


Which kid has more fun?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

noted in passing

NUTS TO THIS: Some group of fools has decided to change the name o the Sears Tower in Chicago, our country's tallest building, to some other hideous name. I sincerely hope none of you will be tricked into calling it the name of a British Insurance Company. Ye-gads! For us conservationists, it will always be Sears Tower.

Highly Recommended watching

here: click
INSURANCE COMPANY CORRUPTION: How the Insurance Companies propagandize the public and destroy health care reform.

---- Recommended by ALICE: "On Friday night, Bill Moyers had a 45 minute conversation with the ex CEO of Cigna who quit his job after an eye-opening experience he had when he came down from his ivory tower after 15 years to attend a reunion in VA.. It was mind boggling and encouraging to hear."

a favorite headline

From Dashman:
China Bans Shock Therapy for Internet Addiction

Thursday Morning Smile Maker

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Add to Your Day

For everyone who was young in the 1950's

Favorite Headline --- send yours

Sent by Scot. Click on the headline to read the story.

"Plastic Gorilla Feet Give You Twinkle Toes"

survey note

I have already been receiving some answers to the survey sent out to Obama voters. Thanks. There is still plenty of time to add your thoughts, if you haven't.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Friends Report on July 13, 2009

Not many people reported on their 4th of July activities. But here's a few we know about:

SCOT, TRASE, PAT W and BUD - spent the evening on her family's boat on the Saginaw River watching the terrific fireworks at Bay City.

I got up at 6:30 a.m. and fed the dog and cat. Let the dog out and sat out on the porch in the beautiful morning atmosphere. Got some breakfast took a handful of meds and then caught up on my sleep after a heavy agenda. Watched the Wimbleton (always do when the Williams sisters are playing). They were born in Saginaw but moved at a fairly early age. I was disappointed because all day the announcers hyped the sisters' doubles game to be played right after the mens' doubles. The mens' doubles was televised and then programing went to golf. Sometimes I love tv and sometimes it so frustrates me. I'm sure noone else has that experience. The dog and I stayed here for the day and I protected him from the bombs; then I caught up on some more sleep after that heavy job. Talked to numerous friends around the country. All in all it was a pleasent day.
SKUZZA and HERPE - spent the day at home not bothering anyone.

BILL from WNNCO - made a trip to Ann Arbor.

MIKE C - "at the camp" up North.
Some Notes about friends

SANDY - is leaving for California and the birth of her grandson. She will be looking after daughter and child when the big day comes. She reports that the baby's sonograms are terrific and that he's going to be tall!

SPARTY and GIIGI - have returned from the annually scheduled family camping week up North.

BRENDA and STEVE - are holding an open house at their home in the woods, and we plan to be there and taking pictures.

IRISH MIKE and AMY - have returned from a week on the beach in North Carolina.

LIAM - is thriving. He is the best natured baby we've ever met and smiles broadly at every possible chance. He is in the reaching-grabbing stage of life and keeps his parents and grandparents very busy. Next: Crawling.

ALICE - among a raft of unfortunate events in her life-space over the last two years, she has now had her cat die. Condolences. Birches is definitely cat friendly.

FELIX - from Indiana is marrying Pilot from Massachusetts, "under the trees" in North Carolina in September. He has sent an invitation to BIRCHES and we are definitely planning to be there.

MARSHA- Went to see Public Enemies and notes that Melvin Purvis, the guy who tracked down Dillinger and many other bad guys, was a graduate of University of South Carolina.


Some Humor from friends

DASHMANN forwarded this:

JERRY sent this political cartoon:


GIGI sent this joke:

The boss walked into the office one morning not knowing his zipper was down and his fly area wide open. His assistant walked up to him and said, 'This morning when you left your house, did you close your garage door?' The boss told her he knew he'd closed the garage door, and walked into his office puzzled by the question.

As he finished his paperwork, he suddenly noticed his fly was open, and zipped it up. He then understood his assistant's question about his 'garage door.'

He headed out for a cup of coffee and paused by her desk to ask, 'When my garage door was open, did you see my Hummer parked in there?'

She smiled and said, 'No, I didn't. All I saw was an old mini van with two flat tires..

Some Snapshots

Bill's House
Marsha's House
From Felix's Porch
On Pat W's deck

Wacko Award Winner - Javier Aquirre


Our Newest
Wacko Award

JAVIER AQUIRRE, head coach for the Mexico National Soccer Team, who made a gesture to kick a player from the opposing team (Phillips, from Panama) during a Gold Cup qualifying match. He started a mini-riot on the field which resulted in the sending off of himself and others, and in his 3-game suspension from coaching.

At Moments Like This!!! I always wish the award was for Asshole, not just for Wacko.

But, this is how Mexico usually plays soccer. Without sportsmanship or respect.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Home Again

We are home again under the birches ---- after a 4 day vacation.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday Smile-Maker

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride."
The shade replied,--
"If you seek for Eldorado."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"From now on, kindly refer to me as the FORMER 1/2Governor of Alaska."

ego stuff

Here are three things you probably didn't know about me.

1. I have a mail delivery person who looks exactly like one of the Super Mario Brothers. He is very nice.
2. My neighbors are the Flintstones. They are very nice.
3. As a former high school teacher, I am not afraid of teenagers.

Sent by JERRY - "I thought this was very good."
So, did I, so here it is!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Police say firecrackers been met with gunfire on Long Island. Nassau County detectives say two men unleashed several bullets on an Inwood street shortly after midnight Sunday because they were angry about firecrackers being thrown at their feet.

Police say one of the approximately seven shots accidentally hit a 28-year-old man in the buttocks. He has been treated and released from a hospital.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Goodbye Robert McNamara

For those of us who lived through the Vietnam War, and who were truly paying attention, there were many personalities who represented the principles and ethics of that conflict to whom we looked either in awe and respect, or with hatred and disdain. Lyndon Johnson, himself, was the principle hate target.

But for me, McNamara was the man who signified not only the Best and the Brightest, but the most Machiavellian, the most efficient, the coolest and coldest of the war makers. He was a Kennedy man, a confidant, a manipulator, a man determined to meet the call of his country, and maybe he was even a genius. In my recollection, he deserved both the awe and contempt that were visited upon him by the people.

Late in life, he may have said that he was wrong. If he meant that, then he lived long enough to gain wisdom.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Goodbye Steve McNair

Next time, pick a woman who doesn't know anything about her 2nd Amendment Rights.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

It's Caturday!

CHOPPER (Sandy's Grandkitty)
feel free to admire and adore

Friday, July 3, 2009

Concerning G.M. - that company with the magnificent management

Quoted without further comment:

"The largest U.S. automaker, following its smaller rival Chrysler LLC, is using the bankruptcy process to spin off a new entity with reduced costs and debt while leaving the old GM with unwanted property and obligations to creditors, dealers, retirees, accident victims and environmental agencies.

"The discarded assets will be all that creditors have to satisfy their claims as GM starts to unwind liabilities of $172.8 billion -- more than twice its reported assets."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I almost wish he was still alive!

Recently, a somewhat koo-koo musical talent of great artistic merit, died. As a result, the press of the world has gone into an endless orgasm over the event, and everyone is talking about the huge devotion of TV coverage time to this evident cultural calamity.

Some of the people I know have questioned the wisdom of this dedication of resources to what must seem to guys from wiser worlds, floating around in OFO's, to be an insane preoccupation with the banal.

Dashmann for example asks: Why do we spend all that time on creeps like Jackson, when have real life heroes to celebrate and mourn ??

Sparty says that he almost stopped listening to news and even his favorite commentators because they are so caught up in the trash journalism. He rarely watches TV for news or information anymore. That comes from other sources less tied to sensationalism.

Scot says that any one person's death is a statistic unless you know them personally, and he can't see driving down to a hospital to mourn the passing of everyone who dies.

Irene says it is the media's fault, not simply the fault of public interest:
The media would doubtless argue that it is merely reflecting the needs of its consumers, like any business. But unlike other industries, the media is in the privileged position of having a critical role in shaping the perceived needs of its audience. It does not have to slavishly follow the flawed mindset of some of its consumers, and indeed frequently makes a judgement not to do so. Why here? An appropriate relegation of Jackson’s death to the celebrity section while meaningful events -- say, the slaughter in Iran -- are given more detailed coverage might be too much to ask, but a re-balancing of news values toward issues that actually affect us would not go astray.

I know that when generational icons die, there will be -- must be -- some public acknowledgment of the significance of the passing. I often do that myself when I recognize on this blog the death of someone who particularly meant something to me, or whom I've presumed meant something good for the world. But, there you see, is the crux of the matter and the source of my criticism of the media. I make those choices, just as the people who own the networks make those choices. So, I agree with Irene, and the rest of you. There are limits!

I almost wish the gentleman in question had never died.

I remember thinking when Reagan died and the networks were involved in a week-long bath of idolatry, that I wish the man had outlived me so that I didn't have to feel so unconnected to the pathetic state of a society that forgets too easily. I believe in forgiveness but not as a fetish.

Thursday Morning Smile-Maker

Newborn foxes, Tokyo

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Friends Report on July 1, 2009

Let the blog know what you're doing or have done for the Independence holiday.

I'll be sending out a question about Obama to the Democrats whom I know who voted for him.


What Some of You Are Reading and Talking About

LEIGH - (SANDY'S daughter) who lives in "Republican country" somewhere in California, sends a complaint about some Republicans who are trying to organize a boycott of General Motors (which they call "Government Motors") because the company has been receiving bailouts. She hopes "someone on the blog" is responding to this. [Well, so far, she is. Any more comments?]
Read more here: CLICK

and a liberal reaction: CLICK

MIKE C. - sent this reference to a joke about a new math test that's more fair to ghetto kids. If you want to read this racially insensitive joke, go here: CLICK

GIGI - recommends this article from "The Catholic Reporter" which stresses that "Independence Day" should also be interdependence day, especially for Christians. CLICK

SCOT - this is "Pabst"
this year's winner
of the ugly dog

SPARTY - recommends a poem by John Updike, called BASEBALL of which this is an excerpt.

It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.


Some Snapshots

LEN and CLIFF - MARI and MIKE - STEVE and his Blandings turtle - Goodwill Ambassadors (Mexico)

2 patriotic gunmen protect Detroit against 7 junior high terrorists waiting for bus


Kaka and God

This is Kaka --
Over at ARBORETUM Scot is wondering about the American soccer team's second half loss to Brazil. This player is a big hero on the Brazilian team. When he was young, he injured his spine and might have been crippled for life. God saved him, so says Kaka. This is why Brazil wins!

So, stop complaining. It's heretical.

(click on cartoon to enlarge)
See more of Adam Zyglis's work here CLICK