Archive for August, 2011

GETTING YOUR LANDSCAPE READY THIS FALL

August 20, 2011

Okay folks, it’s that time of year when you have to start preparing the landscape for late fall, winter, and next spring. If you live where I do, Minneapolis area, USDA Zone 4, we’re about a month away from our first frost. We are less than 2 weeks from the start of the possible snow season! Yuch! Anyway, I digress, if you are in Zone 4 or colder, Zone 3 is for north of the Twin Cities, and the only Zone 2 area in the continental United States, north central Minnesota, the first thing to focus on is the lawn.

Starting right now in Zone 3 and no later than Labor Day in Zone 4, your lawn could use an aeration. This could be via a punch or spike aerator or a core aerator which pulls plugs from the ground and scatters them about. The reason for aeration is just what it is. The lawn is composed of individual grass plants which need oxygen to live, just as we do! Aerating the lawn opens holes to get air, water, and nutrients to the roots of the plants. If it’s been more than a few years since you’ve done this, it’s time. If you have heavy or clay soil, aeration should be done at least every other year. Otherwise, just normal traffic, snow load, etc, compacts the soil making the transport of air, water, and nutrients to the roots less efficient. After aerating, it’s a great time to over-seed the lawn. Use a grass seed that compatible with or the same as the turf grass you presently have. Check the seed label for content, I prefer a high percentage of Blue Grass, and a little perennial rye with as close to no weed seed as possible. Don’t skimp on the seed. Check with your local agronomist or garden center for more information if you’re not sure. After spreading grass seed, you should apply seed starter fertilizer. This fertilizer is formulated to help new seed and seedlings get up and going. If there a larger bare spots or if you have some slopes, consider covering them with green mulch. You should get this at the same reputable source where your seed comes from. The mulch sticks the seed to the ground and retains moisture for the seed to help germination.

Around the end of September, it’s time to apply fertilizer to the lawn. If you did an over-seeding, you needn’t do this application. Spread a good inorganic fertilizer that is faster acting, in other words, not time released. This step feeds and strengthens the grass for winter. There are three numbers on the fertilizer bag. In Minnesota, you will have to use one with a zero for the middle number. Potassium is outlawed for general use on lawns and gardens. If you can find a fertilizer with a higher third number, Potash, that’s great. Potash helps the development of a healthy root system. Nitrogen is the first number, trey to avoid any fertilizer with a first number higher than 24 if possible. At this time of the year we don’t need a deep green and fast growing turf. In October, third week if it hasn’t snowed yet, use a “winterizer” or if you can find an organic fertilizer use that. This is the application that sets your lawn up in the spring. Organic fertilizer will lay dormant in the soil until spring when the soil temperatures go above 53 degrees. There’s your “spring feeding”! Once on a regular lawn maintainance schedule, you will not be feeding your lawn in the spring, you’ll only be applying pre-emergent weed and crabgrass control and insect and grub worm control.

Once the temperatures have dropped to fall-like numbers, end of September, lower the cutting height on your mower. The grass will survive and thrive because of the cooler temps. Keep your lawn well watered until ground freeze up. If you have an irrigation system, the companies that blow them out and winterize them are always doing it too early in the fall. If your system gets closed long before ground freeze, you’ll need to keep watering with hose and sprinkler, especially if you’ve over-seeded the lawn.

Removing leaves and debris from the lawn is important. I don’t believe in mulching leaves into the lawn. I think it chokes out the grass and the lawn has to devote so much energy in the spring to recover from a too heavy coat of leaf mulch and thatch. If you have many trees, rake up and remove the leaves. Once you’ve removed the heaviest of the leaf cover, then you can bag them as you mow with the mower. I do recommend using the mulcher of the mower when mowing before leaf drop.

This is the time of the year when you can start dividing perennials. Daylillies, Bee Balm, Daisies, etc. are divisible. Most of the perennials in my garden I’ve gotten as a result of divisions. It’s a cheap way to expand your gardens and add new varieties by trading with fellow gardeners. I prefer dividing Hosta in the spring, when the new growth spikes are up a couple of inches. Fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs. As long as the ground can be worked, these items can be planted! The key, of course to late season planting is water, water, water.

If you have a compost pile, start getting it ready for use in late September and October. Turn it over again, water it, etc. If you are making new beds, removing sod etc., install what ever material you’re using for edging, then work on conditioning the soil. Use your compost by tilling it into the ground. If you don’t have compost, either get it from local free compost dumps or get peat moss to turn into the soil. If you don’t have a roto-tiller, turn the soil amendments into the soil with a shovel. Now you can plant this fall, or the bed is ready for spring planting.

Your annuals in the landscape are starting to leg out now. When you start yanking them out, dispose of them if they have any sign of insect or fungus damage. These things can live in compost piles so get rid of them, don’t compost them! Garden vegetables are producing now. If you have them growing in your garden, pinch all flowers on your vegetable plants, they are not going to give you fruit in time, remember we are a month away from frost! You can also pluck little fruits, small tomatoes, etc. By removing the blossoms and small fruit, the plant can focus it’s energy on ripening the larger fruit.

Trimming and pruning can be done now on certain shrubs and trees. A general rule of thumb to go by is if the shrub flowers, trim right after the blooms fall off. If the shrub is non-flowering shape and prune as needed. I don’t recommend trimming and pruning shrubs in the fall. They’ll need as much woody material and leaves if coniferous, like rhododendrons, to store moisture to get through the dry air of winter. If, however, the shrub has some random long canes or shoots, cut them off, they’ll die off in the cold dry winter wind anyway. It’s okay to prune trees right now but, only do it if you have damaged or dead limbs. The best time to prune trees in the dead of winter, January in our Zone.

I’ll write on the end-of-season duties in the landscape in about a month. If you have questions or remarks, please leave a comment on the blog or e-mail me at camobert@comcast.net. For seed and plant materials, I recommend contacting the folks at Linder’s Garden Center on http://www.linders.com. They have the know how and a superior quality of plants and plant products.

The essential thing to take away from this commentary is to water, water, water, all the way through the fall. I look forward to your comments and questions and thank you for today’s read.
Cam Obert

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE ECONOMY AND JOBS…

August 15, 2011

Reading today’s newspapers, it struck me that two stories were about the continued slide in job availability. The reason: budget cuts to governmental agencies which promote employment by engaging the private sector to build and update infrastructure etc. Mind you, this is not adding people to the government’s payroll, it’s giving the private sector a reason to add people to their payrolls.

After eight years of very robust job growth during the Clinton Presidency, a record, in fact, for an eight year term, it came to a screeching halt with the passage of the first unfunded Bush tax cut in 2001. As with the economy under Dutch Reagan, unemployment soared, bankruptcies sky-rocketed, and foreclosures became more the norm than the exception. Both of the Presidents, Dubya and Dutch, left the economy in a shambles upon their departure. The facts are clear, tax cuts do not help the economy, they hurt it. Under Dubya, by his last year in office, the country was losing 800,000 jobs a year! That’s quite a legacy, as well as quite a resounding, no screaming, reason why tax cuts don’t help, they harm. Except, of course, the top 2% of the income earners and businesses that actually benefit from that reckless policy by adding the extra money to their bottom line profit. Losing 800,000 jobs a year tells me businesses don’t use the unaccounted for tax cuts to grow and expand.

You’ll note I refer to the tax cuts as unaccounted for. That’s because they are. Persons and entities in the top bracket, the so-called “job creators” like tax cuts because it’s free money, not tied to any rules or performance. Though both the Health Care Reform Bill and the Stimulus Bill contain very small tax cuts to placate the republicans in Congress who work for the “owners”. More importantly, they contain tax credits. These are credits earned by individuals and businesses for performance to enhance the economy, like creating jobs and hiring the unemployed. These bills contain massive repayments for capital expansion too. This way, the government can hold recipients of tax breaks accountable to perform. It makes perfectly good sense to me. I worked under 100% commission or under a “management by objectives” system. In other words, I was held accountable for the results of my work, and rewarded very favorably for doing it right. A great system! it holds people accountable. I do not believe in paying salaries or hourly wages without any accountability.

Why does this matter? Because the right-wing, which has controlled the message in this country since March of 2009, believe in the opposite. They believe in free hand-outs from the government and they don’t believe those receiving tax breaks from the government should be held accountable. You see, that top 2% loves the gravy train from Uncle Sam. It’s a free money grab! So as they get richer, being helped greatly by free money from the government, the middle class is on its death bed, and the people living under the poverty level has expanded now to almost 15% of the population! This situation is happening in the “greatest country in the world”! Is this acceptable?

The reason why the calls from the right to CUT-CUT-CUT! are a joke. We have proof their method for fixing the economy doesn’t work. The private sector, even while receiving so many unaccounted for tax breaks, has shown a great reluctance, no, revulsion, to spending money to expand payrolls. They are making record profits on the backs of greatly reduced yet massively over-worked work forces. The collapse is coming, but not fast enough to help the economy now. In light of the fact the private sector refuses to grow and expand, the government now must invest in the country. With programs to upgrade the crumbled infrastructure, the private sector will be forced to expand to handle the scope of the work that is needed to be done. As growth starts happening, more people will be earning paychecks, meaning people will be able to spend more money on both essentials and luxuries. Having more people on payrolls adds to the income revenue to the federal and state governments, and a population with purchasing power adds to state and local coffers via sales and use taxes. By giving people the ability to start spending again, we’ll see manufacturing rise as demand for goods rises. Have I lost any of you yet? Does anything I have said not make sense to you? It’s pretty simple stuff here.

The Congressperson who has most railed against government spending, Batshit Bachmann, not only has she taken hundreds of thousands of dollars for her and her family’s businesses, but she wrote letters to the Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation 16 times after the Stimulus Bill became law to beg for project money for her district! She cited the terrific benefits of the Bill to provide many jobs, get private contractors work, and make things in her district better for every one. Can you say hypocrite?

The bottom line is this, if the country is going to break the chains of this stifling recession, the government has to take the lead. The country has patiently waited since 2001 for the private sector to start creating jobs. They haven’t thus far and there isn’t much time left before we start seeing London type scenes in this country. The government must move fast on this. The politics of mutual hate and destruction have got to cease so that the government can forge ahead with its responsibility to reverse the trend. It’s time to get big money out of politics, by the way, the right-wing mega-wealthy donors dumped over TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS into Wisconsin in the LOCAL state senate recall elections! Do you think this country can ever get fixed with that kind of influence on the government? It’s time to get rid of all the lobbyists on K Street, get rid of all of the influence purchase power of Wall Street, and get to a level playing field by publicly financed campaigns. After the initial job creating legislation in Congress and the White House, fix the tax system and you’ll see positive results! Simple right? Thanks for today’s read, and as usual, I look forward to your comments!
Cam Obert

TIME TO FIX THE ECONOMY…WORDS TO HEED!!!

August 12, 2011

Let’s take a brief look at what got the U.S. economy to this point. In January of 2001, the federal government was sitting on an approximate 200 billion dollar budget surplus. This was there because of strong and bold leadership by President Clinton for the last 4 years of his administration. He had to reverse all the deep damage inflicted on the U.S. economy by the totally bone-headed moves by the Reagan administration from 1980 to 1988. Reagan really did this guide this economy into the deep abyss that lasted until Clinton stood up the Newtie led republicans in Congress and changed the path. He did this by an intelligent combination of cuts and revenue enhancements…balanced! Once Dubya came into office, the influence of the now strengthening “owners” became clear. Claiming a surplus is a result of over-taxation, Dubya shoved an ill-advised and more importantly, an unfunded tax cut through. That act in itself dissolved every cent of the surplus, and began the growth of long term deficits! He followed that stupid act with an invasion of a harmless sovereign state, Iraq. Cheeney claimed we’d be in and out and the proceeds from hijacking the Iraqi’s oil would pay for the whole thing. Therefore, there was no funding mechanism in place to pay for this savage occupation of Iraq. Well, as most intelligent Americans knew, there never was proceeds from the oil, only trillions of unfunded dollars spent on a lie, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of human kills and permanent disabilities. As an afterthought, Dubya sent us into Afghanistan without setting up funding for that war. More trillions of dollars added to the debt and deficit! Dubya followed those stupid manuevers with another act of lunacy with a second unfunded tax cut in 2003. Can you see the influence of the “owners” taking hold of the federal government? This move, by all estimates from knowledgable economists added yet another trillion some dollars to the deficit. And then, for good measure, in a purely political move for the 2004 election, Dubya pushed through the unfunded Medicare prescription bill act. Another move that added several hundred billion dollars to the deficit. Those move, combined with the lower tax revenues left the government with a 1.43 trillion dollar deficit at the end of Bush’s Presidency. In his last act, to say “fuck you America”, he shoved through this 3 page document known as TARP, an 800 billion dollar gift to Wall Street. As you can well understand, a three page document of gift bill, couldn’t go far enough to make accountability a part of the bill. So as everyone with brains knew, the fat cats on Wall Street pocketed the money for their own use to spend, lavish vacations, million dollar office renovations, and payouts of huge bonuses for failed performance. It’s a good thing Eric Holder went after all of those thieves and recovered the money! Apparently, Holder didn’t get the message from the “owners”!

Fast forward to August 2, 2011. Washington DC showed it’s total lack of any leadership in the total failure of the debt ceiling increase. President Obama completely ran away from it as soon as the Tea-Baggers flexed their muscle. The really sad thing though was watching Speaker Boner and Senate Minority Leader McChinless also whither and shrink from the loud mouths in the Tea-Bagger caucus. That whole exercise of watching the “owner” controlled Tea-Baggers dictate the legislative obstruction on these issues was disgusting. What we saw was how governance will be done in this country from this point on unless the leadership problem is addressed.

The next point of failure is the selections to the so-called “super committee” on the budget. First off, the formation of another committee is pointless. Congress already has committees to deal with matters of the economy. To make it even more senseless, look at the appointees on the republican side. Everyone of them signed the asinine and infantile Norquist no tax pledge, that renders this committee moot. Everyone knows that correcting the problems of the economy be addressed at all angles! So, here comes yet another political gridlock. The only way to get the ball rolling on these issues of the economy is to have the President grow some balls and start acting like a chief executive. He needs to realize the republicans don’t like him in the least nor will they do anything with him to advance his agenda. Non-partisan legislation and governance is not working so it’s time for the President to go to the Lyndon Johnson playbook.

The fix has to work in this order, tax reform then government led job creation, followed by the hope of private sector job creation, deep and very severe cuts to the defense budget, and a streamlining of Medicare and Medic-Aid. The only changes needed for Social Security is the government needs to repay what it owes the fund and then from this point forward stop borrowing from it. Social Security is a self-operating entity funded by our money, not government money.

The steps needed for tax reform are very simple but will quickly pay billions in economic recovery! First, the tax code needs to be totally scrapped! There have been so many additions to fit special interests to it over the decades it’s just become too cumbersome. A simple set of tax rules will be a graduated rate system, starting with zero taxation on people working beneath the poverty level as determined by the government. The rates will then rise as tax payers income rises. As a person or company rises through the levels, they only pay the higher rate on the amount earned above the previous lower rate. The only necessary deductions for tax payers are for personal home mortgages and loans for paying for college education. All loop holes must disappear. Every person and entity pays their fair share, no exceptions. Companies and businesses may earn tax credits for company expansion and adding employees to payrolls. These are credits that must be earned and accounted for. Companies must perform the expansion and additional hiring first before applying for tax credits. Companies or individuals caught “hiding” income overseas earned from American business, will be severely penalized and ordered to bring the money earned in America back to America. By closing tax loop holes, simplifying the tax system, catching and penalizing tax cheaters, the rates for everyone and every business will be lower because of the increased revenue rates.

To jump-start the economy, the government needs to create a jobs program. The infrastructure of the country is in a shambles. The stimulus bill passed last year only scratched the surface. As a cave in to the republicans, the bill was weighted way to heavily to tax cuts rather than preparing a program for work projects to get people to work and get the private sector participating in the work to improve the lot and life of Americans. As China keeps blowing past the U.S. with massive expenditures on its infrastructure, high-speed rail, high-speed communications, and education of its population, the U.S. keeps sliding backward because of petty politics. The government needs to take the lead in this area because the private sector has shown no interest or inclination to expand and add to payrolls, in fact, despite record profits, they are still laying workers off! The Reagan and Bush tax cut failures are classic examples that unaccounted for tax cuts do nothing to improve or grow business. Documentation shows the top 3% of income earners not only don’t spend the tax sourced extra money on their business, they simply apply it to the bottom line profits and bank it. It’s a fact, indisputable!

The hope being that government initiated work projects eventually will knock the private sector off their fat asses and join in the process which is the right thing to do. Not only is it patriotic, but in the long run it will pay off financially for them. Remember, in the ’50’s under republican President Eisenhower, the country operated quite successfully under a top marginal tax rate of 92%! Not only was the economy strong, but the backbone of the country, it’s infrastructure was grown, renewed, and added to. Under Bill Clinton’s presidency, America suffered under that onerous and oppressive top tax rate of 39%. The result, a total reversal of the negative slide Reagan put the country into and a record eight year growth in the economy and a 200 billion dollar budget surplus! How can anyone dispute these facts? They are, after all, FACTS!

In conclusion, the President needs to become a strong leader ala LBJ, needs to start dictating what the course of action is going to be and not cave into the republicans who will continue on their path of the destruction of the Presidency of Barack Obama! President Obama needs to get word to Congress he will be bringing to them his plan for the economy. He must not accept anything from the Democrats or republicans on the Hill. The days of compromise are over. It’s time to start the political strong-arming and the threats. How do sensible people think FDR, Truman, Ike, JFK, Nixon, Clinton, and mostly LBJ got things done in Washington? They were powerful and flexed their strength where needed. The republicans have no interest in bi-partisan governance, in fact, they have no interest in governance at all. The ONLY thing they have done since coming into power in the House in January is the wildly out of touch Ryan Bill proposal, which has proven out to be a job killer, and legislation that works against middle America and the poor. It’s solely an order from the “owners” to keep suppressing the masses and expand the strength and wealth of the top 3%. Other than this failed piece of proposed legislation, all we’ve gotten from them are anti-woman, ant-gay, anti-poor, and anti-immigrant legislative proposals! Let’s us all know who the true constituents are of the republicans in elective office.

Thanks for today’s read and I look forward to reading your comments.
Cam Obert

THIS COUNTRY LACKS LEADERSHIP…

August 9, 2011

…for politicians that will carry out the will of the people!!!

Beginning with the election of Barack Obama as President in 2008, interests other than the peoples’ have been calling of the shots. This is not only in Washington, but in the state governorships and state legislatures as well. The election of a progressive person of color has frightened the right-wing of this country to the point of the country’s owners, Wall Street, Corporate America, Big Energy, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and mega-wealthy hedge fund managers, to converge in an orchestrated effort to destroy the economy of the country, destroy the middle class, destroy the working class, and finally set up a government/society of a ruling wealthy minority over a population of poor and underprivileged people.

President Obama’s campaign in ’08 was primarily funded by a true grass-roots effort of individual donors of 100 bucks or less. I do not overlook the fact that he greatly benefited from huge donations coming from the “owners”. There was a segment of the ruling wealthy class in 2008 who liked enough of what they saw in him to pour money his way. Don’t forget the alternative in ’08, Senator Grampy McSane(R-AZ), it wasn’t too much of a stretch for them to go Obama’s way!

In 2009 the President punted on several opportunities to lead. He did get the Stimulus bill passed, which was greatly needed. He screwed up, however, by not selling it to the American people. The republicans seized the moment and went on the attack. Next, the total debacle of the Health Care Reform Bill. Obama totally dropped the ball on this very important legislation. He turned it over to Reid and Baucus in the Senate and Pelosi in the House. He showed absolutely ZERO leadership in the process of getting this legislation through Congress. Most importantly, when the republicans faced him up, he immediately caved in on the most important aspect of health care reform, a single payer system! His base was crushed. As this legislation stumbled around, sometimes with days and days of no action at all, that opened the doors for the right-wing to step up and take ahold of the message in this country. That was the beginning of the radical out-of-touch Tea-Baggers. That was when we saw the rise of total disruption of town hall meetings by nut cases all over the country. The extreme right used this total failure of the administration and Democratic Party to sell the benefits of this bill to change it from benefits to evils. It worked, as we saw in the mid-term elections of 2010.

In early 2010, this very active and radical majority on the U.S. Supreme Court invented and then made the “Citizens United” ruling giving corporate entities individual status as persons. By making this ruling, the flood gates have been opened for the “owners” to spend freely on political campaigns and spend freely on buying influence in American life as far as agendas and policies are concerned. Corporate America bankrolled the elections of 2010. The amazing thing is there was no outcry from politicians of either side as the political process of our free democracy was being hijacked by the “owners”. Actually, after it was too late to make a difference, some politicians did complain meekly.

After the paid employees of the “owners”, in other words the freshman class of Tea-Baggers overthrew John Boner as the leader of the House, they just about brought the economy of the U.S. and the entire world to its knees with its totally thoughtless threat to not raise the debt ceiling. This reckless action by arguably the dumbest most ill-qualified idiots to ever sit in an elective office has wrecked the economy recovery and tanked the markets around the world. After this close call, all the politicians simply started blaming each other and leaving DC to go on vacation! Not one politician has called for immediate action on this failed so-called compromise to start erasing the debt and deficits the country is facing.

President Obama has terrible management skills. He is not a good chief executive nor has he made any good appointments to his White House staff, except possibly the recent addition of William Daley. He is a consensus guy but that only works in a legislative setting. He does not like confrontation nor does he like to make decisions and stick to them. He is too political to be leader of a country. You cannot constantly check the winds of public opinion when you’re a leader, you must make a decision based on what you think is right for the country and doggedly pursue it to its completion. You don’t make grandiose speeches about your vision, then run away from them by assigning them to your people in Congress. It is now especially clear that President Obama is not the only “leader” in Washington that doesn’t know how to lead.

About two years ago or so, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Mitch McChinless(R-KY), made clear what the priority of his party as legislators, GOP governors, and GOP state legislators is. I’m sure by way of a directive from the “owners”, McChinless stated the most important thing for republican politicians to work on his the defeat of President Obama in 2012. This is leadership? I call it being a gutless coward who is afraid to face and deal with the real issues because the party’s position on these issues may hurt the chances of ousting Obama. As with all of the members of the right-wing of the GOP, McChinless is a mean rotten asshole who has no concerns for the people of his country. His constituency, like all of the right-wing politicians, is Wall Street. Wall Street doesn’t need to be concerned with the issues of the day where America is concerned, they are only concerned with what they need to do to increase the bottom line of their own P&L statements. McChinless has proven to be the perfect stooge for Corporate America. He is, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest and most well compensated whore in America today.

John Boner, the Orangeman(R-OH), Speaker of the House is an example of everything a leader shouldn’t be. He’s gutless, he’s dishonest, he’s mean, and he doesn’t like to work. He is the leader of his party in the House, but Eric Goose Stepper Cantor seems to have the ear of the caucus, not Boner. When Boner was goaded into meeting with the president to hammer out a deal, he negotiated in good faith, reached a tentative agreement only to be rebuked by the idiots, the Tea-Baggers in the House. Because of his failure in leadership, the country’s economy was just about destroyed. We see what happened when they passed a compromise bill, can you imagine what it would be like without passing a debt ceiling rise in time?

There is plenty of blame to hand out on the American political scene for the lack of leadership. The underlying problem is nobody wants to address the problem of the “owners”. All politicians to one degree or other are beholding to the “owners” and that has to change before anything else can happen in the proper direction. I commented in a recent blog about what I feel the country and politicians need to do to fix things. It didn’t go far enough, so my next commentary will address the reforms and changes that Washington and the state capitals need to make to turn this plummeting mess around.

Thanks for today’s read, and I look forward to your comments.
Cam Obert


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