Friday, November 30, 2012

When kids head home

Did you have your family with kids gather at your home for the Thanksgiving holidays?

It can get noisy can't it?

It's wonderful to have family around and it great to wave goodbye.

My poetic thoughts about it.

Visits - A Sonnet

© 2012 Rolland G. Smith

What is this? This nothing, I hear and feel.
It was not here just a moment ago.
Just then it seemed that only noise was real
With chattered talk and din - a loud tableau.
There was the clink on glass and plates to clean
And conversation’s noise around the room.
All families come with sound when they convene
To tell of life and laughter they exhume.
We oft forget to hold the silent space
That disappears within the clattered noise.
When gone, it leaves no sign, no note, no trace,
But reappears when sound has lost its poise.
With children present silence leaves to roam
But then returns when grandkids head on home.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Hostess you have forsaken your fans. The following is from columnist and radio commentator Jim Hightower. It puts a different perspective on the demise of the Hostess Twinkie and other Hostess products.

Read it and weep for the memory of the Twinkie and shame on those whose dispassion for others is obscured by self and greed.

"A Death in the Family -- and the Question is: Whodunit?

By Jim Hightower

Born in 1930 in Schiller Park, Ill., the deceased was 82 years old at the time of passing, which ironically was the day before Thanksgiving.

Having long enjoyed the sweet life, the end was a bit bitter, for the dearly departed's estate had been mercilessly plundered in recent years by unscrupulous money managers. This left 18,500 surviving family members in dire straits. Indeed, the family contends that the octogenarian's death was not due to natural causes, but to foul play a case of corporate murder.

This is the drama behind the sudden death of Twinkies. Fondly remembered as "the cream puff of the proletariat" (and less fondly as a sugar-and-fat bomb that delivered a toothache in one bite and a heart attack in the next), this industrial concoction of 37 ingredients became, for better or worse, an icon of American food processing.

The father of the Twinkie was James Dewar, a baker at the old Continental Baking Co. who saw the goo-filled tube cake as a way to keep the factory's confection machinery busy after strawberry shortcake season ended. Yes, the Twinkie was actually conceived as "food" for idle machines. How fitting is that?

But us humans happily swallowed this extruded marvel of comestible engineering. As a teenager, I probably downed my weight in Twinkies each year and my long years on this Earth might well be due to the heavy dose of preservatives, artificial flavors and other chemicals baked into every one of those cellophane-wrapped two-packs that I consumed.

The Twinkie was the best-seller of Hostess Brands, a conglomerate purveyor of some 30 nutritionally challenged (but moneymaking) brand-name food products, ranging from Wonder Bread to Ho Hos. In the past year, Hostess racked up $2.5 billion in sales yet it suffered a staggering $1.1 billion in losses. Thus, on Nov. 21, Ripplewood Holdings, the private equity outfit that had taken over the conglomerate in 2009, pulled the plug, solemnly announcing that Hostess simply couldn't survive. Why? Because it was burdened with overly generous labor contracts, the firm's executives declared, adding that greedy union officials refused to save the company by taking cuts.

Wait a minute. They claim that the bereaved loved ones of the Hostess family killed the Twinkie? Holy Agatha Christie, that can't be right.

Remember the horrible murders in 1978 of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk? At the killer's trial, his lawyer argued for leniency on the grounds that his client subsisted on a steady diet of junk food, which had addled his brain. This claim entered the annals of American jurisprudence as the "Twinkie Defense."

Even less defensible is the campaign by Ripplewood financial manipulators to lay the death of Hostess at the feet of loyal, longtime employees who, after all, need the jobs. In fact, far from greedy, Hostess workers and their unions have been both modest and faithful. Their wages are decent but not at all excessive only middle class. And the charge that unions would not make sacrifices to help the company is a flat-out lie, for they had previously given back $100 million in annual wages and benefits to help it survive.

The true perfidy in this drama is not in the union, but inside Ripplewood's towering castle of high finance in New York City. After buying Hostess in a bankruptcy sale, these equity hucksters proceeded to feather their own nests, rather than modernize Hostess's equipment and upgrade its products, as the unions had urged. For starters, these profiteers piled an unbearable debt load of $860 million on Hostess, thus diverting its revenues into nonproductive interest payments made to rich, absentee speculators. Also, they siphoned millions of dollars out of Hostess directly into their corporate pockets by charging "consulting and management fees" that did nothing to improve the snack-makers financial health.

But it was not until this year that their rank managerial incompetence and raw ethical depravity fully surfaced. While the Ripplewood honchos in charge of Hostess were demanding a new round of deep cuts in worker's pay, health care, and pensions, they quietly jacked up their own pay. By a lot! The CEO's paycheck, for example, rocketed from $750,000 a year to $2.5 million.

Like a character in a bad Agatha Christie whodunit, Ripplewood the one so insistently pointing the finger of blame at others turns out to be the one who killed the Twinkie. Along with the livelihoods of 18,500 workers.

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peeves and More

It’s been awhile since I’ve had some pet peeves listed on this blog.

Why is the FCC thinking of relaxing some rules that would allow Rupert Murdock to buy more newspapers in this country?

Doesn’t he have enough media control already? It would be one thing if his News Corp had the integrity of impartiality in all his media outlets, but it’s another thing to pander and promote only the conservative right.

I often agree with a conservative point of view, but when it is the only point of view allowed to be expressed in the Murdock controlled media its validity diminishes in the waning light of singularity.

The United States of America was founded on compromise. It flourished on compromise. It succeeds on compromise. Continued contention in Congress, without compromise, will harm our future and fertilize our decline into the annals of history.

An old pet peeve, but still valid. Why do some drivers wait until they see your direct lights before they dim their own?

Why do panderers put so much creative energy and time into asking for money when the same amount of effort might generate a comfortable job?

Why is the world not paying close attention to the imminent global dangers from the Fukushima Nuclear Power plant in Japan?

Why are the poor and homeless disenfranchised from immediate and compassionate governmental help in the clean up and establishment of basic services in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy?  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Global Warming follow-up

Here’s a follow-up of yesterday’s post. This one comes from the news agency AFP.

“PARIS — The gap has widened between countries' pledges for reducing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and what is needed to keep planet warming in check, the UN warned.
Based on current pledges, global average temperatures could rise by three to five degrees Celsius (5.4 to 9.0 degrees Fahrenheit) this century -- way above the two degrees Celsius being targeted, said a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

Urgent and decisive action could still see the world get back on track, but this would mean cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent to about 44 billion tonnes in 2020 from an estimated 50.1 billion tonnes per year now.

Without swift action, emissions are likely to be at 58 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) in eight years' time, according to the report compiled by 55 scientists from more than 20 countries.

"The opportunity for meeting the 44 Gt (gigatonne) target is narrowing annually," said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner -- adding the message was "one of great alarm and concern about where we are".

Even if all countries adhered to the most ambitious level of their commitments, under the strictest rules, the gap between what has been pledged and what is needed will amount to at least 8.0 billion tonnes by 2020.

"This is 2 gigatonnes higher than last year's assessment, with yet another year passing by," said a statement.

The so-called emissions gap could soar to 13 gigatonnes in the worst case scenario in which countries take a lenient approach to their emissions commitments, said the UNEP.

Based on countries' current actions, it was "more probable than not that the gap in 2020 will be at the high end," of the range, it warned.

"The sooner countries will do what they promised, the better the situation will be. But even if they do all the things they promised to do, it's still not enough if you want to stay on the path to the two degrees," UNEP expert John Christensen told AFP.

In its third report on the topic, the agency said the concentration of warming gases like carbon dioxide (Co2) in the atmosphere had increased by 20 percent since 2000, picking up after a slump during the economic downturn of 2008-9.

And several countries have lowered their non-binding reduction pledges made under the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, UNEP officials told AFP.

Even if the 2020 targets are achieved, countries would have to make steep cuts to keep warming at two degree Celsius after that, said the report, with emission levels dropping at a median 2.5 percent per year to 37 gigatonnes by 2030 and 21 gigatonnes by 2050.

The report comes just days before the opening of UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar that will discuss an agenda for work to adopt a global pact by 2015 to enter into force by 2020.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ya Think?

The following is from a BBC report saying that greenhouse gases have hit a record high in 2011 according to the World Meteorological Organization. We can no longer ignore the obvious. Three one-hundred years storms in the northeast in the last five years should tell us something.

“In its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released on (last) Tuesday, the organisation said that carbon dioxide levels reached 391 parts per million in 2011.
The report estimates that carbon dioxide accounts for 85% of the "radiative forcing" that leads to global temperature rises.

Other potent greenhouse gases such as methane also reached record highs.
The carbon dioxide levels appear to have been rising at a level of two parts per million each year for the last 10 years - with the latest measure being 40% higher than those at the start of the industrial revolution.

The WMO estimates that 375 billion tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere since 1750, and that about half of that amount is still present in the atmosphere.

"These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on Earth," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

"Future emissions will only compound the situation."

US weather agency the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contributed to the bulletin with their Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, which indicated that between 1990 and 2011, carbon dioxide's role in the radiative forcing that leads to warming had increased by 30%.”

It’s time we take our intellectual head out of the sand.
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