Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Daily Kos says not so fast....

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This story is from the Daily KOS The State Of The Nation.
I wouldn't get too excited about the recession being over just yet.

The Secret That Will Destroy the World's Financial System

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Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 06:11:34 AM PDT

There's a secret out there.

A secret so incredible, so horrifying, so toxic that if the public ever heard about it, it would destroy the world's financial system.

That sounds like a big claim.

Who's making it? Not some scary Chicken Littles in the Daily Kos diaries. Not some Doomer site. Not wacked-out gold bugs. Not Ron Paul.

This claim is being made by a consortium of the world's biggest and most powerful banks.

What's the secret they don't want you to know?

It all starts here:

In November of last year, the Bloomberg news organization sued the Federal Reserve bank of the United States. The goal of the suit was to force the Fed to disclose information on the alphabet soup of lending programs it created in 2008 to help prop up Wall St. banks:

Bloomberg News asked a U.S. court today to force the Federal Reserve to disclose securities the central bank is accepting on behalf of American taxpayers as collateral for $1.5 trillion of loans to banks.

The lawsuit is based on the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which requires federal agencies to make government documents available to the press and the public, according to the complaint. The suit, filed in New York, doesn't seek money damages.

"The American taxpayer is entitled to know the risks, costs and methodology associated with the unprecedented government bailout of the U.S. financial industry," said Matthew Winkler, the editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, a unit of New York-based Bloomberg LP, in an e-mail.

The suit sought to reveal which banks were getting which part of the $1.5 trillion dollars and what assets the banks were putting up as collateral for the loans.

The Federal Reserve fought the case and ...

They lost it:

The Federal Reserve must for the first time identify the companies in its emergency lending programs after losing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Manhattan Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ruled against the central bank yesterday, rejecting the argument that loan records aren’t covered by the law because their disclosure would harm borrowers’ competitive positions.

The Fed has refused to name the financial firms it lent to or disclose the amounts or the assets put up as collateral under 11 programs, most put in place during the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression, saying that doing so might set off a run by depositors and unsettle shareholders. Bloomberg LP, the New York-based company majority-owned by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, sued on Nov. 7 on behalf of its Bloomberg News unit.

The Federal Reserve has to identify the companies to whom it gave the $1.5 trillion dollars and it has to list the assets used as collateral for the so-called "loans."

The Federal Reserve says that this might "unsettle shareholders."


Apparently, that is the standard these days.

And since when has the government felt obligated to protect the share prices of certain private businesses over others? Is that role in the Constitution somewhere?

Anyway, an industry group representing the biggest and most powerful banks on the globe, including British, French, Dutch and German as well as American banks, have issued a warning about the disclosure:

If you tell who got the $1.5 tril, you're gonna destroy the world financial system.

The secret is just that big.

(Note that I'm linking to Zero Hedge here, not because I endorse the editorial theme of the blog at all, but because they are the only place I could find that carries the original document in toto.)

The world might "get destroyed."

But we've also got to have access to this information.

For the simple reason that, if we don't, we're going to see a repeat of this in a couple of years with even bigger numbers, bigger handouts from the Fed and the Treasury, bigger payouts to Wall St. executives and other insiders ...

And even bigger secrets that the public can never know.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Smoke Em If Ya Got Em!

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Maybe the US will follow suite! From the Ass. Press.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico now has one of the world's most liberal laws for drug users after eliminating jail time for small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and even heroin, LSD and methamphetamine.

"All right!" said a grinning Ivan Rojas, a rail-thin 20-year-old addict who endured police harassment during the decade he has spent sleeping in Mexico City's gritty streets and subway stations.

But stunned police on the U.S. side of the border say the law contradicts President Felipe Calderon's drug war, and some fear it could make Mexico a destination for drug-fueled spring breaks and tourism.

Tens of thousands of American college students flock to Cancun and Acapulco each year to party at beachside discos offering wet T-shirt contests and all-you-can-drink deals.

"Now they will go because they can get drugs," said San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne. "For a country that has experienced thousands of deaths from warring drug cartels for many years, it defies logic why they would pass a law that will clearly encourage drug use."

Enacted last week, the Mexican law is part of a growing trend across Latin America to treat drug use as a public health problem and make room in overcrowded prisons for violent traffickers rather than small-time users.

Brazil and Uruguay have already eliminated jail time for people carrying small amounts of drugs for personal use, although possession is still considered a crime in Brazil. Argentina's Supreme Court ruled out prison for pot possession on Tuesday and officials say they plan to propose a law keeping drug consumers out of the justice system.

Colombia has decriminalized marijuana and cocaine for personal use, but kept penalties for other drugs.

Officials in those countries say they are not legalizing drugs — just drawing a line between users, dealers and traffickers amid a fierce drug war. Mexico's law toughens penalties for selling drugs even as it relaxes the law against using them.

"Latin America is disappointed with the results of the current drug policies and is exploring alternatives," said Ricardo Soberon, director of the Drug Research and Human Rights Center in Lima, Peru.

As Mexico ratcheted up its fight against cartels, drug use jumped more than 50 percent between 2002 and 2008, according to the government, and today prisons are filled with addicts, many under the age of 25.

Rojas has spent half his life snorting cocaine and sniffing paint thinner as he roamed Mexico City's streets in a daze. Most days he was roused awake by police demanding a bribe and forcing him to move along, he said.

"It's good they have this law so police don't grab you," said Rojas, whose name, I-V-A-N, is tattooed across his knuckles.

Rojas hit bottom three weeks ago when he could not score enough money for drugs by begging and found himself shaking uncontrollably. He accepted an offer for help from workers from a drug rehabilitation center who approached him on the street.

"Drugs were finishing me off," said Rojas, whose 13-year-old brother died of an overdose eight years ago. "I lost my brother. I lost my youth."

Juan Martin Perez, who runs Caracol, the nonprofit center helping Rojas, said the government has poured millions of dollars into the drug war but has done little to treat addicts. His group relies on grants from foundations.

The new law requires officials to encourage drug users to seek treatment in lieu of jail, but the government has not allocated more money for organizations like Caracol that are supposed to help them.

Treatment is mandatory for third-time offenders, but the law does not specify penalties for noncompliance.

"This was passed quickly and quietly but it's going to have to be adjusted to match reality," Perez said.

Supporters of the change point to Portugal, which removed jail terms for drug possession for personal use in 2001 and still has one of the lowest rates of cocaine use in Europe.

Portugal's law defines personal use as the equivalent of what one person would consume over 10 days. Police confiscate the drugs and the suspect must appear before a government commission, which reviews the person's drug consumption patterns. Users may be fined, sent for treatment or put on probation.

Foreigners caught with drugs still face arrest in Portugal, a measure to prevent drug tourism.

The same is not true for Mexico, where there is no jail time for anyone caught with roughly four marijuana cigarettes, four lines of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams of methamphetamine or 0.015 milligrams of LSD.

That's what concerns U.S. law enforcement at the border.

"It provides an officially sanctioned market for the consumption of the world's most dangerous drugs," San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said. "For the people of San Diego the risk is direct and lethal. There are those who will drive to Mexico to use drugs and return to the U.S. under their influence."

Don Thornhill, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor who investigated Mexican cartels for 25 years, said Mexico's rampant drug violence will likely deter most U.S. drug users, and the new law will allow Mexican police to focus on "the bigger fish."

The Bush administration criticized a similar bill proposed in Mexico in 2006, prompting then-President Vicente Fox to send it back to Congress. But Washington has stayed quiet this time, praising Calderon for his fight against drug cartels — a struggle that has seen some 11,000 people killed since Calderon took office in 2006.

"We work with Mexico every day to combat illegal drugs and cartel violence," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said when asked about the law. "And we look forward to continuing that cooperation."

Associated Press writers Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Vivian Sequera in Bogota, Harold Heckle in Madrid, Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Olga Rodriguez in Mexico City and Matt Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Related articles

Deer Hunting With Jesus

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I just finished Deer Hunting With Jesus and I can't recommend it enough. I don't know how Joe Bageant escaped the cultural desert he grew up in...nor I. Maybe we didn't One thing is for certain he brings home the very real idea that Fundamental Religious Right folks are very dangerous, organized, always on purpose; and a force to be recon d with. I am happy to find out that Joe has a web page

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Show Must Go On

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by Kurt Cobb

Paris, But Not France

It is a sign that the world may be upside down when French tourists in Las Vegas take pictures of themselves in front of the Paris Las Vegas hotel and casino complex which includes a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. And, yet this is not the strangest behavior I observed recently during a trip to southern Nevada, an area that along with the much of the West is suffering through the worst drought on record.

As a visitor to Las Vegas you could be forgiven for not understanding that the city is suffering a prolonged and extreme drought. Yes, there was a small sign in the bathroom of my hotel room that read: "Dear Guest, Southern Nevada and the West are experiencing extreme drought conditions." It suggested reusing towels as do most hotels now, even ones not located in drought-striken areas. But it did not suggest any other measures I might take.

Outside the hotel and in seeming contradiction to the bathroom message, the Las Vegas strip is brimming with so-called "water features," a term taken from geology for naturally occurring water on the earth's surface or underground. But these are anything but natural. Perhaps the most spectacular is the fountain at the Bellagio which has water jets that shoot maybe 100 feet into the air and dance to tunes broadcast by cleverly concealed outdoor loudspeakers. (The link leads to a video of the fountain in action though one must really be there to appreciate it fully.) The pool from which this bit of spectacle originates looks like a small reservoir several football fields in size.

Frank Sinatra and the Fountain

As Frank Sinatra crooned "Luck Be a Lady," the evaporation from the water jets was so great that the Nevada desert air was transformed for a few minutes into something akin to my own muggy Michigan summer atmosphere. My face ended up dripping not from spray, but from sweat--even in the still searing nighttime heat that generally leaves one hot and dry rather than hot and sweaty.

At the New York, New York hotel and casino one need only stand outside to experience the Statue of Liberty in a fake New York harbor complete with a squirting fireboat and a Brooklyn Bridge that you can actually walk over. This "water feature" was one of only two on which I saw a small plaque which mentioned the drought. It read:

New York New York is proud to operate this water feature in full compliance with all drought ordinances. A current water efficiency and drought response plan is on file with local water purveyors.

One wonders about the efficacy of these ordinances if they allow such continued profligate water use. And, in fact, it turns out that water features at resorts in Las Vegas are exempt from these ordinances. Nevertheless, some hotel owners have responded with extraordinary conservation efforts. MGM is featured in a video on the Southern Nevada Water Authority site for its efforts. (Click on "Conservation" and then "Rebates and Programs" to find this video.) Yet, MGM continues to operate huge water features at its Mirage and Treasure Island hotels albeit with so-called "gray water" generated by guests in its hotel rooms and purified on site for this purpose.

The water authority claims that hotels and casinos only consume about 4 percent of southern Nevada's water. But, of course, they are leaving out all the vendors who sell to and service the hotels and casinos, all the people who work there and thus live in the city's apartments and homes that use water, and all the ancillary businesses that serve the people who work and live in Las Vegas, i.e. the banks, laudromats, car washes, restaurants, day care facilities, schools, and so on.

Las Vegas is built on gambling. Tourism is a major driver behind the city's growth. The people who flock there often find work in the so-called "gaming industry." Without gambling Las Vegas would still be a backwater town servicing ranchers, farmers and the remaining mining industry in Nevada.

Lake Mead's Bathtub Ring

A tourist flying into Las Vegas might be alerted to the actual situation by looking out his or her airplane window to view the noticeable white ring around Lake Mead, a lake created on the Colorado River by Hoover Dam and the source for 90 percent of the city's water. The ring is the result of the deposition of minerals on the lake floor in better times. The 10-year drought has lowered the lake level more than 120 feet from its most recent peak in 1998. The lake is now at about 40 percent of its capacity.

So quickly is Lake Mead falling that an intake pipe which supplies 40 percent of Las Vegas' water may emerge above the lake's surface by 2012. The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) is working furiously to lay pipe for a new intake that will assure continued supplies should the lake fall below the current intake on schedule. The authority is a consortium of water districts that act together on water issues.

But the new intake may not be enough. A recent report from two researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography calculates that there is a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead will cease to supply water to the millions that rely on it by 2021. They calculate a 10 percent chance that this could occur by 2014 and a 50 percent chance that lake levels will drop below those necessary to generate electricity from Hoover Dam's many generating turbines. Their study assumes no changes in water management. But they hope to prompt radical changes in that management with their conclusions. (For the complete study, click here. It should provide a gripping read for anyone who lives in and around southern Nevada.)

The study's authors indirectly point out that Hoover Dam and the communities that rely on the Colorado River for water have grown up in what might turn out to be a rather wet period in the western United States. They note that average Colorado River flows over the last 500 years are less than those over the last century or the last 50 years. If that is any indication, the West may now be experiencing the new normal.

Despite all this Patricia Mulroy, manager of the SNWA, insists that Las Vegas' water troubles shouldn't be cause for limiting growth. She told Bloomberg that she expects growth in Las Vegas to continue because many Americans prefer living in the Southwest over other locations in the United States.

Mulroy's hopes for continued growth lie north of Las Vegas where she wants to tap groundwater resources currently used by ranchers, farmers and rural communities in the Snake Valley and nearby areas that straddle Nevada and Utah. While driving through areas in southern Nevada and Utah still used for ranching, I was struck by the number of irrigated fields growing feed crops of hay and alfalfa. Even more striking was that the large spray irrigation systems were turned on during the midday when evaporation is at its peak. The midday temperatures were well above 100 degrees when I passed some fields being watered in Nevada.

Much of the West's and the nation's water is used for irrigation. In the United States, the portion of water withdrawals used for irrigation in 2000, the last year for which complete figures are available, was 34 percent, according to the U. S. Geological Survey. This contrasts with 11 percent for what is called public supply for homes and businesses and another 1 percent brought up through private wells, all for household use.

Mulroy complained years ago about the profligate ways of ranchers and farmers in her region and little seems to have changed. Moreover, these same ranchers and farmers are disinclined to share their water with Las Vegas. And, a recent agreement between Nevada and Utah would put the water out of reach until 2019 if both states accept it, something that isn't a forgone conclusion.

Farmers, ranchers and rural residents in the area that would be affected by Las Vegas' groundwater withdrawals fear that their already arid landscape will end up being desiccated. They point to California's Owens Valley where Los Angeles in the early part of the last century secured water rights and shipped the valley's water to the city. Owens Lake dried up and became an alkali flat responsible for local dust storms, vegetation changed, and farming and ranching declined for lack of water.

Also in question is whether Las Vegas will be able to afford the estimated $3 billion cost of a pipeline from the north since its bond rating is in peril because of the deteriorating economy and the devastating effect that has had on tourism in the city.

All Dressed Up, But No Place To Go

Meanwhile, visitors to Las Vegas continue to ride in gondolas on fake canals in front of The Venetian hotel. I paced off the length of the ride, and the maximum distance one-way appears to be about 200 feet. But it does include passing under a bridge. There's an indoor version, too. Across the street at the Mirage one can enjoy waterfalls with flaming volcanoes that simultaneously deplete water and natural gas. And, there are countless exterior misting systems used to cool off outdoor diners for those who prefer to waste water while sitting down.

You are allowed to wonder why this writer even visited Las Vegas given his previous writings. I was on my way to a family hiking vacation in southern Utah, a vacation generously organized by one family member working in a national park there. Las Vegas was the closest city via air to my final destination. Other family members wanted to stay in Las Vegas a few days before the hiking adventure. In part, it seems this was to offer a subsidy to wealthy casino owners by means of the gambling tables and slot machines. And, I confess that in the absence of anything else to do, these owners received a small subsidy from me.

For now the water authorities and the casino owners agree that despite the drought, the show must go on. The city's residents are counting on it. The state of Nevada is counting on it. Perhaps even the whole country is counting on it. But I'm guessing that the small amount I surrendered at Las Vegas' gambling emporiums may come in handy for the city's beleaguered casino tycoons as they are gripped ever tighter by the triple threat of worldwide economic decline, disappearing water and peak oil. These developments are likely to drive operating costs through the roof even as they reduce the ability of customers to pay. That casts doubt on whether a show that supposedly must go on will go on very far into the future.

Photos Courtesy of Olga Bonfiglio

Original article available here

Monday, August 24, 2009

Careing For Water

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This is from a blog by Charles Hugh Smith about collecting water, storing it, and waste disposal. Charles has a Blog called Of Two Minds that I found through Life After The Oil Crash Website.
This is jam packed with information and includes other sources at the end. Thanks Charles.

1. Size of system. It comes down to what readers are planning for and how much water they anticipate using while the power to a conventional system is down. If it's loss of power to pump the water and the power is off for a week or 10 days because of a run-of-the-mill disaster, yes. But if you're planning for long range period such as a Hurricane Katrina, or if terrorists blow up the power grid, or want to hole up during a swine flu epidemic, where power may be off for weeks/months, then readers will need to look at something larger than a few barrels.

2. Portability. If readers are planning to use the water for household purposes (and I bet they are), then they have to get it from the collection point to the point of use at or inside the house.

As you know since you're storing some, water is heavy -- 8.33 lbs/gal. Do the math, and full a 15 gallon barrel is 125 lbs, a 30 gallon barrel is 250, and a 55 gallon barrel is 450 lbs. One guy in reasonably good shape can wrestle 125 lbs around; the others will take at least two guys and/or some equipment to move.

Given that the probable main purpose of doing is this to provide a supply of potable water, then probably it makes sense to store the barrels in the house near a spigot and drain so you can periodically change the water out and refill them and still have access to them. You might as well use the municipal water supply for this while it works. Granted this isn't exactly in the mold of Romantic survivalism, but it is immensly practical.

You also need some kind of a hand pump or a siphon to get the water out of the barrel. A decent hand pump can be had for about $40.00. It should pump a gallon out of the barrel with 16/20 strokes.

3. Pipe threading. Most of these pumps seem to have the narrow threading (NPT - National Pipe Thread) on them. Therefore, your barrel needs to have that threading on one of the bungs (it should since NPT is a standard thread) or you will need to invest in an adapter. ($8-$10)

It appears to me that the adapters may vary in size (not sure about this), so if you need one it would be wise to check on the size of the bung hole and adapter sizing to make sure it fits.

If you get an IPS threaded pump, then you probably will need an adapter, because the barrels we can get in the U.S. normally don't have either bung threaded with IPS. Online suppliers like Northern Tool or Latta typically display the adapter with the pump so you can pretty quickly figure that you need it. But good luck if you go to Lowe's or Home Depot -- you'll probably have to teach them, even if they have the pump.

4. Protecting plastic barrels from sunlight. When I got my barrels, I remember the product literature indicated that you should not leave them exposed to sunlight as it would degrade the plastic. It did not say how it degraded the plastic, how long it took or whether the degradation would affect the water inside.

It does suggest that if someone is going to store the barrels outside whether for outside or inside water use, they should consider whether they need to shelter them in some way from sunlight.

Thank you, Chuck, for these highly informative pointers.

My wife noticed a brief article in Sunset Magazine on collecting rainwater which mentioned that old wine barrels can also be used. The article did not address the key issue this raised in my mind--will the stored water taste like wine? It is practically a Bibilical question... a wood barrel would dispense with the plastic degradation issue but raise others--like everything else in life.

Next up: longtime correspondent Chris H. shared photos of rainwater/filter system and something few plan for: alternative disposal of human waste. Chris lives in a small Northwest city, and also has food-drying racks and an amazing cider press.

I use 4 50 gallon barrels joined at the bottom with an overflow (far right) and a hose bib at the bottom right. Although the rain comes off a composit shingle roof, it can be made potable with this simple gravity system which uses silver-impregnated ceramic filters. You can filter pond water if necessary.


The AquaRain type system has affordable ramifications for all potable water-challenged places anywhere in the world. There are many variations of this low-tech solution. But because low-tech, low maintenance also mean low-profit, corporations are uninterested generally.

Also lets not forget the toilet. Municipal sewer systems can break down, too, even if you have water. So I built one of these in my city backyard:

It's just a sophisticated porta-potti... which is legal. I call it a "comfort station". No "stuff" ever hits the ground (5 gallon bucket), no odor (use peat moss). I compost the it for my fruit trees. Note the solar powered vent.

Thank you, Chris, for the excellent photos and suggestions.

Once of my recent jobs (after helping a friend install some curved plywood sheathing) was digging up a clogged sewer line (fun stuff, I recommend it as a way to burn calories). I mention this because digging a deep hole for human waste--a latrine--might not be that easy depending on the soil in your area.

Having built a plywood "shack"/shed/cabin in the middle of an abandoned field with only a handsaw and other hand tools in my younger days (and digging a latrine, carrying water to the garden in 5-gallon buckets, etc. etc. etc.) then I have already considered how we might dispose of human waste safely and inconspicuously in a dense urban area for a few weeks of "emergency" such as after an earthquake. Dig deep, dig often, compost.

Chris's system is much better and well worth studying.

These titles might be of some interest:

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

A Dangerous Place: California's Unsettling Fate

Merchants of Grain

The Paradox of Plenty: Hunger in a Bountiful World

Paradox of Plenty: A Social History of Eating in Modern America

The Nine Nations of North America

Diet for a Small Planet

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times

Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance

Just in Case Kathy Harrison

The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City

Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front Sharon Astyk

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

Melting Products From China

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I receive daily emails on products that have been recalled for one reason or another. Almost all the recalled products come from China and almost all of them are sold at Wal*mart. Receiving these daily reminders results in me seeking out US made products. I can only hope that with the price of a barrel of oil going up that places that make this junk and sell this crap will finally go out of business. This product comes from an American Company that has outsourced many of its products and jobs overseas! I was tired of it (Cheap breakable junk from China) before our economy plunged. So I am in the camp that believes that we deserve the present state of affairs and that downsizing and cutting back will result in America making our own stuff in the future. Maybe we will make a coffee maker that doesn't melt or explode! To see this recall click on this link. Join me and receive the Consumer Product Safety Commission's recall list and see for yourself. Unfortunately, you won't get to see all the recalls that have been going on for all these years...just the current junk.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Legalized Robbery

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Looks like legalized robbery to me!

Changes to the eBay User Agreement

Dear eBay Community Member,

I'm writing to let you know that the we've posted an updated eBay User Agreement to help us implement some policy changes. This agreement is effective immediately for new members registering on or after today, and on September 22, 2009, for current members.

The biggest change to the agreement covers our updated, expanded and renamed eBay Buyer Protection. eBay Buyer Protection offers coverage for more buyers and allows eBay to deduct amounts due to buyers under the program from seller PayPal accounts. If sellers don't have sufficient funds in their PayPal accounts, sellers will be asked to provide an alternate payment method. We've moved the bulk of the program details to the eBay Buyer Protection Policy, referenced in the User Agreement. For more information, you can review the Seller Release details announced July 27, 2009.

As with earlier updates to the User Agreement, we've made other minor changes to reflect eBay's current product and service offerings and industry legal standards. For example, we've made a few changes to the way we describe use of our catalog content.

You don't need to take any further action to accept the new User Agreement. If you don't wish to accept the new User Agreement, please refer to this Help page for instructions on how to close your account. We hope you find that these changes make eBay more useful for you.

Thanks for being a part of the eBay community!


Scott Shipman
Senior Counsel
eBay Inc.

I found a new auction site that is far more friendly and less dangerous. Check out for a more friendly marketplace.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stuff For Sale on Ja Get It

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I have been listing some of my stuff on a new website called Ja Get It. This new website is gonna give eBay a run for their money. It costs nothing to list your item and they only take 4% final value fee. The site is just starting up so there is not much there yet. But many folks have been waiting for someone to make a site that is auction style so that we can tell eBay to take a hike! So check them out and start sending people over to
ps. If you go over there tell them skymetalsmith333 sent you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guerilla Gardening British Style

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This story is from The Washington Post. We will know when we have a food shortage in this country when our golf courses get plowed and planted!

TODMORDEN, England -- Gardening has long been something of a national sport in Britain. But while Britons are spending as much time as ever digging and weeding, many have been choosing lately to plant food -- turnips instead of tulips -- with a gusto not seen since their country's World War II Dig for Victory campaign.

The trend is unusually visible in Todmorden, a market town about 200 miles northwest of London, where residents have planted crops in dozens of public places. Young cherry trees adorn the police station. The entrance to the health center is decorated with raspberry bushes and apple trees. And the local train station's platform is green with mint and rosemary.

"It takes a leap of faith to grow in a graveyard, to be corny," said resident Mary Clear, as she bent over and pinched a weed sprouting between an onion and a strawberry plant in Todmorden's vast Victorian cemetery.

The community-wide effort began about 18 months ago when Clear, 54, an energetic woman who works for the town government, sneakily started planting seeds in her spare time with a few friends. Any nook, cranny and postage-stamp-size bit of land was up for grabs. The campaign blossomed with the plants, and now the movement operates under the name Incredible Edible Todmorden and receives funding and support from the local council and businesses.

"It makes people interact with their town," said Estelle Brown, 65, a local Web designer, as she snapped a pea from a vine growing next to the town's canal and ate it.

Many space-starved Britons who do not live in towns such as Todmorden, where rhubarb-for-free nods outside the local pub, grow food on allotments.

Britain has about 300,000 such community gardens, which are protected under legislation dating to 1887. But demand far exceeds supply, with about 100,000 people on waiting lists -- a number that has jumped nearly 700 percent in the past 12 years, according to Geoff Stokes, secretary of the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners.

A Confluence of Forces

The budding interest in growing food began about three years ago, Stokes said, citing a collision of factors, including popular cooking and gardening television shows presented by influential chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall; a growing interest in the environmental costs of imported food (some food sold here carries labels approximating how much carbon it emits during its lifetime); and the penny-watching that has followed the recession, helping to "tip wavering people over the edge," as Stokes put it.

In a recent report on food security, the British government said the country, which imports almost 40 percent of its food, needs to find ways to produce more food with fewer resources. The report cited concerns over climate change, water supplies, population growth and food prices.

"We need a radical rethink of how we produce and consume our food," said Hilary Benn, the environment secretary.

Under British law, if six people band together and demand an allotment, a local council must try to provide them with one, and for a reasonable fee, usually about $50 to $80 a year. (London is the only area exempt from this rule.) But locating suitable land takes time -- the average allotment is about 300 square yards -- and some councils worry that the renewed interest in allotments is little more than a fad, likely to wither when the economy picks up.

A Buckingham Palace Plot

Such worries have not stopped a swath of initiatives. The mayor of London has pledged to create 2,012 new vegetable patches across the capital by that year. British Waterways, the caretaker of the country's canal network, is offering unused land along canals to community gardening groups and says it will turn old work boats into floating gardens.

In February, the National Trust, a preservation group, pledged to create 1,000 plots over the next three years, many of them on the grounds of stately homes, including Gibside, the ancestral estate of the queen mother's family.

"It's like gardening in the world's grandest garden," said Mark Heath, a 32-year-old volunteer who tends pumpkins and other vegetables at Gibside.

Or why not plant in the back yard of that house across the way, where the residents clearly have no interest in gardening? That is the idea behind, a Web site with more than 40,000 users that was launched on the back of a TV gardening program. It acts as a nationwide matchmaker to fix up those with unused land with those who want to garden in it.

In June, Queen Elizabeth II ordered that part of her garden at Buckingham Palace be dug up for vegetables. (Royal officials emphasized at the time that the queen's patch was planned before first lady Michelle Obama launched one in the White House back yard.)

Back in Todmorden, the Incredible Edible scheme is taking root. Maps are posted around town listing the 26 public gardens that residents can visit to collect their dinner ingredients.

It is unclear how many people actually do that, and a handful of residents interviewed expressed doubts about eating food grown so close to exhaust pipes and within reach of drunken teenagers.

But by and large, the idea has been warmly embraced, and at least one nearby town has adopted a similar scheme.

"They are the cheapest artichokes in town," said Steve Martin, 50, an office administrator sitting in a pub in Todmorden that has a vegetable garden next to it.

"I drag hundreds of people down from the pub to show them, 'No, peas don't come from bags in a supermarket!' And then I take some home myself."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Safest Bank In The World

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Forget the collapsing banking system try the Safest Bank in the World! If our kooky Grandparents taught us anything, it's that the mattress is the safest place to hide your money.

This Money Bank Mattress will save you having to drag your double mattress around with you and offers a place to stash all your hard earned cash! Stuff the Mattress Money Bank with jewellery or small items and hide away in a safe place. A great alternative to piggy banks, this Money Bank Mattress looks just like a miniature mattress, complete with button studs and a pillow.

Take on holiday, hide in the attic, a drawer or leave it out and proud, this is one Money Bank that Northern Rock can't touch... Ideal novelty gifts for Birthdays, Christmas and those saving for a holiday or car, treat them with a money bank with a difference.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Three Days Man...

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We have Comfest and Hot Times here in Columbus probably thanks to folks like Daryl and Rosie Mendelson and Candy Walker who attended Woodstock in 1969 and are involved in planning and promoting our two very own Columbus Summer Festivals. Thanks Daryl, Rosie and Candy...for being there! And for being here now!

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Auction Site

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Finally eBay has a competitor. I signed up for this auction site today and I can already vouch that they have much better customer service. It is just starting up so there is not much for sale yet. It costs nothing to list and only costs 4% for a final value fee. Go to JaGetit and start listing your treasures and buying.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

R.I.P. Les Paul

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Hating Not Debating

Blogroll Me The nightly news apparently did not cover this part of the story. They showed a woman being led out of the Town Hall is what happened right before!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When Poverty Becomes A Criminal Offense

Recently the New York Times posted an article about the criminalization of homelessness. You would think as more people are losing their jobs, homes, and cars that our society would be more lenient and compassionate. To read the full story click on the address bar at the very end of this blog. For some reason the Blogger system is not cooperating with me on this one!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Blog About A Blog About Theft!

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I found this blog that expresses my sentiments exactly about eBay's newest and latest fraud!
This is a blog called Random Musings Of a Deco Lady

eBay Rant re: Photographs

All of us who use eBay have put up with a lot of changes this last year that we don't like. But this one just takes the cake. eBay is trying to legalize theft of our photographs! I am just furious about this.

Several years ago I had to deal with an unscrupulous seller who stole one of my pictures to try to fraudulently sell a post-86 Fiesta turquoise juice pitcher as an extremely rare vintage Fiesta turquoise juice pitcher. It was a nightmare, but finally eBay closed down their auction. But many people knew me, knew that was my photograph, and my reputation was at stake. I posted about it on all the message boards I could, so that people would know I was NOT saying the auction was for a vintage pitcher.

Now eBay is going to let anyone steal your photos. Actually, eBay is stealing the photos. And all under the guise of offering you a new program. And in their new program you are AUTOMATICALLY OPTED-IN.

As of 31 August, eBay is going to offer a photography catalogue of online images that any seller can use in their auctions. This catalogue is going to made up of any photos that have been uploaded to eBay from participating users. Since the default automatically lists me as a participating user, eBay now has unlimited access to my photos.

As an artist I am incensed! As a photographer I am incensed! As a buyer I am incensed! I don't care if they offer the program and let people opt-in if they want to do so. Some people will probably like it. But the default should not automatically put you in the program. The default should be opted-out. And as a buyer I want to see a photograph of the actual item I am buying!

To change this setting:
1. Log In and go to My eBay.
2. There are three tabs. Activity, Messages and Account. Click the Account tab.
3. Looking at the left sidebar, scroll down until you see Site Preferences under My Account. Click on Site Preferences.
4. Scroll down the page until you see Share Your Photos. Click the Show link on the right. If you are like everyone else I have talked with, your option says Yes.
5. Click Edit and you get a page with this:
If you'd like to opt-out of this program, please do so by checking this box and clicking the "submit" button below.
(If you opt-out before August 31, 2009, none of your photos will be considered for inclusion in this program unless you opt back in at a later time. If you opt-out after August 31, 2009, any photos we select for inclusion in this program prior to your opt-out may continue to be used in the catalog).

6. Click on the box to Opt-Out of the "program". Then click Submit to save your settings.
7. Go back and double check that under Share Your Photos your option says No.

This is just so sneaky, unscrupulous, and IMO theft. I have often given people permission to use my photos. And I have friends who know they can use my photos. But for eBay to AUTOMATICALLY ASSUME permission to use photographs is a breach of trust. Many thanks to my friend, Laurie, who alerted me to this eBay change.

Now that I have this mess fixed on my eBay account, I am going to take a deep breath and watch Melissa's new show on Food Network.


Sunday, August 9, 2009


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This little business is located in Lancaster Ohio. What could be more successful in America than a 24 hour Donut Drive Thru? I will be submitting this to Eye Sore Of The Month on James Howard Kunstler's web site.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Nikon Coolpix 5200 Camera Product Review

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Recently, a friend gave me a digital camera that I use quite a bit for my daily blog. The only obvious flaw with this camera is a defective battery cover. I found out two things about this camera and battery cover. The first thing I discovered is that there seems to be an overabundance of these cameras with defective battery doors for sale right now on eBay. The second thing I have found by seeking out product reviews is there apparently is replacement covers and directions to fix them.
Here are the step by step directions from San Diego Camera who also sell the replacement battery door.

NIKON COOLPIX 4200 5200 5900 7900

This is a very easy process. All you need is something flat to pry with, like a small screwdriver or a knife blade.

Remove whatever it is you are currently using to hold the battery door closed and open the door. Slide the plastic part out until it stops. On the underside of the door is that metal plate. The plastic part is prevented from sliding all the way off of the metal plate by two plastic stopper nubs that the two outside clips run into. Keep pressure on the metal plate against those nubs while you pry up the two clips so they slip over the nubs. The plastic part slides right off. You have to do the same to the new door so all you are left with is the plastic part, which slides right on to the metal plate. The leftover parts are yours to do with as you please.

I have to wonder why there has not been an official recall from Nikon, a company I respected and was a loyal customer when their cameras were made in Japan. I will have to get back to you on the overall performance on the camera. I have to admit that the defective battery compartment takes away from the overall photographic experience.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Banking Bonuses Are A Bubble That Is Yet To Burst

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Commentary by Mathew Lynn

In the past 18 months, just about every investment bubble in the world has burst. Property has collapsed, equities have plummeted, commodities have crashed, and even fine art isn’t fetching the same fancy prices.

But one bubble refuses to burst: banking bonuses.

Even after receiving billions in government money to rescue the industry, whose bonus culture has been nailed as one of the causes of the crisis of 2008, the bankers have slipped right back into their old ways.

And yet the one lesson we can draw from the last year is that all bubbles burst eventually. The bonus juggernaut is staying afloat on a wave of cheap money and taxpayer support. That will be withdrawn one day, and the fallout will be huge.

The banking industry should have transformed itself while it had the chance. It may well be too late for it to try now.

No one can have failed to notice the way that bankers are starting to make mega-bucks again.

Last week, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a report that Citigroup Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. and seven other big U.S. banks paid $32.6 billion in bonuses in 2008, while receiving $175 billion in taxpayer funds. That was 2008, during the depths of the crisis. With the markets stronger, and confidence returning, payouts this year will be even higher.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has already boosted compensation and benefits by 33 percent in the first half of this year, setting aside a record $11.4 billion for such payments.

Out of Control

In the U.K., so much evidence is mounting that bonuses are running out of control again that the Financial Services Authority, the country’s main regulator, has threatened a clampdown. It has warned that “guaranteed” bonuses may well violate its new code of conduct. Chairman Adair Turner told Parliament recently he was concerned the banks were returning to “business as usual” in the way they paid their staff.

Now we are waiting to see what reaction there is in Germany to legal attempts by former Dresdner Bank staff to force bonuses out of the parent company, Frankfurt-based Commerzbank AG. Some of the claims have been settled out of court, and there can be little doubt the bankers walked away with handsome amounts. German taxpayers won’t have any trouble concluding that their money is being used to bail out feckless financiers.

All the earnest talk about reforming the system has amounted to very little. There were some good ideas put forward: paying negative as well as positive bonuses, or spreading payments over several years, for example. Yet right now there is little sign of any of them being implemented.

Dot-Com Mania

The closer you look, the more bonuses look like a bubble. The price of bankers has become disconnected from real forces of supply and demand -- just as the price of dot-com shares were at the height of that mania, or the price of new houses in the U.S., Spain or the U.K. at the peak of the housing boom.

People pay the price because everyone else will, not because they think it is really worth it. They shrug, suspend disbelief and argue that the asset in question is exempt from the usual laws of economics for some complicated reason that they don’t really have time to explain.

That is a good definition for any bubble. And each time, it’s great on the way up and nasty on the way down.

After all, the last year has demonstrated that no bubble can inflate forever. On that logic, banking bonuses will collapse one day. The question isn’t if, but when.

Government Help

Right now, investment banks are being propped up by governments. Sometimes that support is explicit, through direct state investment. Other times it is implicit, in that the banks can borrow money cheaply from the bond markets or depositors because governments stand behind them. Either way, the support is what keeps the whole industry afloat.

With enough help from the government, a bubble can last for a long time. If the state had poured hundreds of billions into propping up Internet start-ups, all kinds of fly-by-night dot- com businesses might still be around. Whole government departments would be counting page views in the vain hope the industry would make profits one day.

Likewise, if the U.S., U.K. or Spanish governments had stepped into the market to buy every newly built apartment in the middle of nowhere at an inflated price, then the subprime lending boom would still be raging. Whole ministries would be wondering what they could do with buildings that no one seemed to want to live in.

The bonus bubble will pop one day. That much is certain. Governments can’t be expected to keep an overpaid elite in business forever. Already, the U.S. Congress is looking at ways of curbing bankers’ pay. So is the German government. And the U.K. Parliament is discussing a range of payment limits.

Six months ago, there was some momentum behind reforming the way the financial industry rewards its staff. It could have cut bonuses, tied compensation to performance, and locked in staff to the survival of the bank they worked for.

That chance is gone. Now the industry is waiting for someone else to do the job for it. Bankers won’t enjoy it much when it happens.

(Matthew Lynn is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)