Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Choice

Voters are offered a stark choice in November, and that was dramatized once again on Wednesday, as the Republican House voted to sue President Obama for administrative decisions regarding the Affordable Care Act, and Obama was speaking in Kansas City about the range of real issues facing most Americans:

  "Look, we’ve got just today and tomorrow until Congress leaves town for a month. And we’ve still got some serious work to do. We’ve still got a chance to -- we got to put people to work rebuilding roads and bridges. And the Highway Trust Fund is running out of money; we got to get that done. We’ve got to get some resources to fight wildfires out West. That’s a serious situation. We need more resources to deal with the situation in the southern part of the border with some of those kids. We got to be able to deal with that in a proper way.

 (Applause.) So there’s a bunch of stuff that needs to get done. Unfortunately, I think the main vote -- correct me if I’m wrong here, Congressman -- the main vote that they’ve scheduled for today is whether or not they decide to sue me for doing my job... But think about this -- they have announced that they’re going to sue me for taking executive actions to help people. So they’re mad because I’m doing my job. And, by the way, I’ve told them -- I said, I’d be happy to do it with you. So the only reason I’m doing it on my own is because you don’t do anything. (Applause.) But if you want, let’s work together. 

I mean, everybody recognizes this is a political stunt, but it’s worse than that, because every vote they’re taking like that means a vote they’re not taking to actually help you. When they have taken 50 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that was time that could have been spent working constructively to help you on some things. (Applause.) And, by the way, you know who is paying for this suit they’re going to file? You."

"So some of the things we’re doing without Congress are making a difference, but we could do so much more if Congress would just come on and help out a little bit. (Applause.) Just come on. Come on and help out a little bit. Stop being mad all the time. (Applause.) Stop just hating all the time. Come on. (Applause.) Let’s get some work done together. (Applause.)..."

"And that’s what sometimes Washington forgets. Your lives and what you’re going through day to day -- the struggles, but also the opportunities and the hopes and the good things, but sometimes the rough things that happen -- that’s more important than some of the phony scandals or the fleeting stories that you see.  
This is the challenge of our time -- how do we make sure we’ve got an economy that is working for everybody? Now, all of you are doing your part to help bring America back. You’re doing your job. Imagine how much further along we’d be, how much stronger our economy would be, if Congress was doing its job, too. (Applause.) We’d be doing great."

All the pundits talking to each other in Washington who think the Democrats don't have a potentially winning message in 2014 might think again.

(All photos: Kansas City Star)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

as July ends

     BK photo.  Click image for full photo.

On the threshold of August, summer fires in California.  One just north of here in Six Rivers National Forest halted traffic on the main road to there for a day or so but was expected to be contained by Monday.  Two larger fires are burning to our south: in the Sacramento area and near Yosemite.  As elsewhere, they are burning hotter and faster because of drought-dried vegetation.

With requests to voluntarily cut back on water use apparently ineffective, California will begin mandatory restrictions on home water use on August 1.  The announced guidelines are fairly limited (don't water down your driveway etc.) but each municipality is supposed to develop its own rules.  We haven't been notified of ours yet.

So here on the North Coast, where some maps show the least effect predicted from the climate crisis of anywhere in the states, we're still looking at possibly big effects of small changes.  Though not yet part of the media buzz, there's knowledgeable talk of a rodent population explosion, along with some insects, possibly due to the mild winter.

By the National Weather Service stats, we've have above normal temps (2-3F) and below average precip (which usually isn't much) for June and July.  I don't have stats on pollen but we're really feeling it more, so I assume it's been consistently higher, a consequence of both those weather factors.  So hay fever symptoms are more on than off this summer.

So far our summer crops still seem abundant.  We're enjoying the high season for strawberries right at the moment, mostly from the hotter areas to the east.  It's possible to grow tomatoes in Arcata now, though we have only one plant with just a few baby tomatoes.  But the smell of the tomato vine on my fingers reminds me of August in PA, when the tomato and pepper crops were coming in, and fried plates of same were frequent.

And there's this butterfly, which looks to be an Oregon Swallowtail.  We don't get many butterflies here, maybe nobody does.  But there's been a couple around this month.
BK photo.  copyright William Kowinski 2014

Speaking of Sports

The SF Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates are in the playoff hunt probably for the rest of the season, although the Dodgers sweep in San Francisco may turn out to be a pivotal moment.  So far the only contender to make a move was SF, trading a very good minor league prospect for veteran pitcher Jake Peavy.  The Giants hope to repeat their success with down on their luck veteran starters (most recently Tim Hudson.)  Peavy was immediately thrown into the deep water Sunday with a start against the rival LA Dodgers, to try to stop the bleeding as the Dodgers knocked the Giants out of first place with two straight wins in San Francisco.  His outing was respectable in an otherwise weird and poorly played game, featuring bad calls and errors by another recently acquired veteran, Dan Uggla, whose fielding lived up to his name.  Peavy got the loss, 4-3.

Meanwhile the Pirates survived Coors Field in Colorado, salvaging one win out of three games.  On Sunday they finally scored runs and hit enough homers to take the Rockies 7-5.

 Both the Giants and Pirates have more away games than home games remaining (SF has 6 more away than home, Pirates 3) which is usually not good. But the Giants are a pretty good road team--their epic slump in June and July was mostly at home after a very good road trip.  They started after the break with a good road trip, and lost their first games back.

 The Pirates on the other hand are nearly invincible at home, and not so great away.  Another difference: the Giants this year prosper the most when they score early and hang on (although their bullpen has been an adventure lately.)  The Pirates come from behind a lot, which has been a characteristic of some great Pirate teams in the past.

  The Giants will contend with the Dodgers, and both those teams continue to be plagued by injuries to key players.  But in the just concluded home series, the injury depleted Giants were clearly outplayed by the injury depleted Dodgers. The Pirates are in a competitive chaos with three other teams, and they have several late season head-to-heads with the Reds and the Cardinals.  And coming up next week, the Giants and the Pirates play their last series against each other, in San Francisco.  So at least I'll be able to listen to those games on the radio.

NBA:  The LA Lakers have finally done something right: hired Byron Scott as their coach.  Scott is an experienced coach at a high level (the Lakers beat his Nets in the 2002 finals), he won championships as a key player for the Showtime Lakers (and had the support for coach of key members of that team like Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Michael Cooper), and he mentored a 17 year old rookie named Kobie Bryant, who also lobbied for him.

 Phil Jackson says that in the NBA today you need a dependable point guard and a big center.  The Lakers acquired point guard Jeremy Lin and sort of big man Carlos Boozer.  I wasn't a fan of Boozer's game and didn't see Lin much, but they're veterans without being over the hill overpaid fading stars, so it does suggest these Lakers could have a respectable number of wins with some exciting games.  Because I expect Kobie will be back with a vengeance.

Most of the ESPN analysts who know more about the league than I do, don't exactly agree--they believe the Lakers are in a terrible position, not good enough to contend but too good to qualify for the best draft picks.  The rebuilding however must begin with the credibility of the organization.  Having whiffed on acquiring Carmelo Anthony, let alone LeBron James suggests that players suspect the legendary LA organization is not what it was. It is the Buss boy who probably has to prove himself to the elite players in the league.  Hiring Byron Scott looks like a start.

Meanwhile across town the LA Clippers have a better team but are in deeper chaos because of the still ongoing Sterling/Silver affair.  Donald Sterling is tying things up in court but Clippers coach Doc Rivers added urgency to the situation by suggesting he won't return if Sterling is still the owner.  Star player Chris Paul has since said he might sit out the season for the same reason.  There's even the possibility that players on other teams will refuse to play, perhaps limiting that to refusing to play the Clippers.  So just letting this all drag out in the courts doesn't look like a good option.
Update: Or not!  A judge's ruling Monday seems to clear the way for the sale of the Clippers by mid-August.  It's not yet certain but looks more like resolution is near.