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In the garden: Soldiers

Schneider Tele 2x. Here's another tapestry-style picture; the Black-Eyed Susan Deadheads remind me of ranks of (dead) soldiers.

This is the same idea, and gives me the same feeling, but I think the more monochromatic first photo conveys the idea better (like this for example).

And I finally seem to have been able to get a Zinnia in focus:

Although there is surely more to be done with colored circles on a flat plane. And because I still cannot resist them, more poppies: Read below the fold...

A parallel take on "The Potemkin Moment" using even fancier words

("The Potemkin Moment"[1].) From an article by Steve Denning Forbes, of all places, on "vampire talent" and rental extraction:

We are thus about to witness a vast societal drama play out. That’s because we have reached that key theatrical moment, which Aristotle famously called “anagnorisis” or “recognition.”  This is the moment in a drama when ignorance shifts to knowledge. Just as King Lear in Shakespeare’s play eventually recognized that his apparently virtuous daughters, Goneril and Regan, were a rather bad lot, and that his apparently disrespectful daughter, Cordelia, truly loved him, so society is learning that much of ‘the talent’ it thought was adding value have in fact been extracting value for themselves.

As usual with anagnorisis and the shock of recognition at a disturbing, previously-hidden truth, there is a disquieting sense that the accepted coordinates of knowledge have somehow gone awry and the universe has come out of whack. This can lead to denial and a delay in action, even though the facts are staring us in the face.

If the recognition of our error comes too late, as in Shakespeare’s Lear, the result will be terrible tragedy. If the recognition comes soon enough, the drama can still have a happy ending. We are about to find out in our case which it is to be.

Anagnorisis = The Potemkin Moment. Read below the fold...

ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Covered California gives no-bid contracts to cronies

Corrente readers could see this coming in May 2013: "California exchange spending and contractors exempted from open records law". I'm sure there are plenty of rationalizations for exemptions like that, but it's hard to think of any good reasons. And so we come to today's story from AP:

AP Exclusive: California gives no-bid health pacts

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- California's health insurance exchange has awarded $184 million in contracts without the competitive bidding and oversight that is standard practice across state government, including deals that sent millions of dollars to a firm whose employees have long-standing ties to the agency's executive director. ...

Several of those contracts worth a total of $4.2 million went to a consulting firm, The Tori Group, whose founder has strong professional ties to agency Executive Director Peter Lee, while others were awarded to a subsidiary of a health care company he once headed.

Awarding no-bid contracts is unusual in state government, where rules promote "open and fair competition" to give taxpayers the best deal and avoid ethical conflicts. The practice is generally reserved for emergencies or when no known competition exists. ...

The agency confirmed some no-bid contracts were awarded to people with previous professional ties to Lee, but emphasized Covered California was under pressure to move fast and needed specialized skills.

What a steaming load of crap. They had four years to build the system,[1] and "specialized skills" are always a rationalization for cronyism. I mean, come on. The bidding process is meant to find out if the needed skills really are all that specialized! Read below the fold...

Democratic apparatchiks turn Jack Trammell into just another third-way, "Grand Bargain" loser

You remember the Trammmel (D) vs Brat (R) race, right? Brat, a conservative, took down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia's 7th district -- from the right. In a stroke of fate, both Brat and Trammell were professors at Randolph-Macon College, setting up the possibility of a race where sharp distinctions could have been draw between both parties, even with a debate between the two at their own college! Well, that potentially useful bit of political theatre happened, and this is the result. This is just sad:

Brat, Trammell support raising retirement age to preserve Social Security

Dave Brat, the Republican candidate running for Eric Cantor’s former seat in the 7th Congressional District, and his Democratic opponent, Jack Trammell, don’t agree on much. But both propose raising the retirement age to ensure Social Security payouts for future generations.

Trammell said he would consider increasing the eligibility age by two years, “but that decision would need to be weighed against changes to other programs to be certain there are no gaps. There are many moving parts to these programs.”

Brat has proposed increasing the age by five years, but he said this measure alone won’t solve the problem of what he called an underfunded program.

While Trammell acknowledged that changes are needed to protect payouts of Social Security benefits for coming generations, he accused Brat of “promoting the illusion” that the program is in severe financial trouble.

“This is just not reality,” he said. “The truth is, Social Security has paid its benefits in full and on time for 76 years. It is a strong and effective retirement program that provides millions of Americans some financial security.”

Social Security, Trammell said, is projected “to deliver full guaranteed benefits through 2033 and with modest changes the program can meet its obligations indefinitely.”

So, it boils down to this: Read below the fold...

Greenwald has a second NSA source, higher-up than Snowden, says documentary "Citizenfour"

Hollywood Reporter:

A second National Security Agency whistleblower exists within the ranks of government intelligence.

That bombshell comes toward the end of Citizenfour, a new documentary from filmmaker Laura Poitras about NSA informant Edward Snowden that had its world premiere on Friday at the New York Film Festival.

In the key scene, journalist Glenn Greenwald visits Snowden at a hotel room in Moscow. Fearing they are being taped, Greenwald communicates with Snowden via pen and paper.

While some of the exchanges are blurred for the camera, it becomes clear that Greenwald wants to convey that another government whistleblower -- higher in rank than Snowden -- has come forward.

The revelation clearly shocks Snowden, whose mouth drops open when he reads the details of the informant's leak.

Interesting, if true. Read below the fold...

Common Household Remedies Request

Actually, I don't have much of a request, except for a collective crossing of fingers, unless any of you heat with steam: Read below the fold...

How understanding the immune system of plants leads to greater yield without poisons

The Atlantic:

Kempf is the unlikely founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting firm established in 2006 to promote science-intensive organic agriculture. The entrepreneur’s story is almost identical to Zook’s. A series of crop failures on his own farm drove the 8th grade-educated Kempf to school himself in the sciences. For two years, he pored over research in biology, chemistry, and agronomy in pursuit of a way to save his fields. The breakthrough came from the study of plant immune systems which, in healthy plants, produce an array of compounds that are toxic to intruders. “The immune response in plants is dependent on well-balanced nutrition,” Kempf concluded, “in much the same way as our own immune system.” Modern agriculture uses fertilizer specifically to increase yields, he added, with little awareness of the nutritional needs of other organic functions. Through plant sap analysis, Kempf has been able to discover deficiencies in important trace minerals which he can then introduce into the soil. With plants able to defend themselves, pesticides can be avoided, allowing the natural predators of pests to flourish.

[I think I just injured my fist pounding the table and shouting "Yesssss!"] And here's the contrast to "organic agriculture" Read below the fold...

In the garden: One red leaf

This is the baby oak tree I should transplant to a nicer location, maybe if I get rid of my other evil Norway Maple. Also, good yield on that butternut squash, and good yield on the mildew, too. Maybe I'll rotate the tomatoes into this patch next year. And speaking of squash:

Focus issues -- the iPad wanted to go for that hairy stem, not the flower -- but that bee died happy! And a flower whose name I forget, with a background tapestry: Read below the fold...

My humiliating demographic

OK, so I've mentioned that I've gotten hooked on a podcast, the excellent History of Rome, that I use both to fall asleep to, and to listen to, as content[1]. (Is America the New Rome? Not, so far, even in the same league.) Anyhow, one too many crazy emperors, and one too many battles, so I moved on the next series of podcasts, Revolutions.

So, the podcaster (Mike Duncan) finally got to the stage where he could do a little monetizing, and the first ad I hear is for this company: Read below the fold...

Taking the goddamned bus to the hardware store...

... to buy insulation for the windows, because we don't have a goddamned hardware store in my own town anymore. Read below the fold...

"The Potemkin Moment"

(Playing off "The Minsky Moment.") I have a picture, perhaps wishful, of the political system as a painted canvas, like a stage set, and then some clumsy galoof puts a foot through the it, or a kid pokes a hole in it with a pencil, and then suddenly everybody realizes what they thought was real and permanent and everlasting isn't. For example:

ObamaWar demotivates the Democratic base. 2010, here we come? [The Week]. Interestingly, Ryan Coole shifts focus at the end to this conclusion:

But let’s face facts: expecting our jalopy institutions to successfully navigate the rapidly shifting tangle of alliances in Syria is ludicrous. America is a country where the Secret Service doesn’t notice the White House has been shot until four days after the fact, and is apparently unfamiliar with how door locks work.

It sounds like Cooper’s been reading Naked Capitalism, or Golem XIV, or the Archdruid, all of whom would concur on our “jalopy institutions” (“corruption” is far too narrow a frame). Will institutional rot and demented and sclerotic elites become an issue in 2014 or 2016? Seems unlikely, but then what Ryan Cooper wrote above would have seemed unlikely too, until quite recently. It was also unlikely that Emperor Cuomo would have been challenged, but you can see Teachout and Wu working these same issues in their interviews with Naked Capitalism (the PayPal button is to your right), and they came out of nowhere to take 30% of the vote. So you never know! And remember that the legacy parties are jalopies, too, despite their fearsome appearance and noisy operation.

So, the operation run by the political class is ripe for a "Potemkin Moment," right? Here's another: Read below the fold...

In the garden: Green leaves and red berries

Western sun shining through the leaves of the filbert tree. No nuts this year, unfortunately! Read below the fold...

Common Household Remedies Request

My kitchen is so disgusting I can't think straight, and so I am beginning the process of cleaning it. Read below the fold...

Tweet of the day

Bernie Sanders testing the waters in Iowa for 2016

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

DAVENPORT | Sen. Bernie Sanders, who will be in Iowa this weekend testing the waters for a potential 2016 presidential bid, said Thursday that American voters are angrier at many of the country’s institutions than many realize — and even though they want real change, most will sit out this year’s midterm elections.

“What we have to appreciate right now is there is a great demoralization politically in this country,” Sanders said in an interview with the Quad-City Times.

Still, the senator has been showing up on the doorstep of the first-in-the-nation caucus state. He was at an event in Clinton County in May. And he also appeared in the state three weeks ago, the same weekend as Sen. Tom Harkin’s final steak fry, which featured Clinton in her first return to the state since her loss in the 2008 caucuses.

I'm not sure I agree with this. Read below the fold...

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