Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Gift of Purity from Knoxville's Li'l Christmas Elf

"Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he plans to push three bills calling for drug testing in the 2012 legislative session - one dealing with persons on welfare, one for those drawing unemployment compensation and one for those receiving workers' compensation benefits.

"I find it very strange that Republicans don’t believe government can do anything right … except decide who can marry, who can raise children, what you can watch on TV, what books you can read, which religion is the right one, when life begins, how much compensation is enough if you are injured by corporate negligence, and if your pee is pure enough to collect your unemployment which, by the way, is a benefit you paid for. Government is great at all of that stuff.


"So who stands to gain in Tennessee? Look no further than Tennessee Republican Congress Critter Diane Black, whose husband is CEO of Aegis Sciences, a company which does drug testing. Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is on Aegis’ board of directors — presumably advising the company on how to screen for drugs via videotape. /snark"

Too bad Elf Campy and Santa Ramsey, I mean, Senator Ramsey, did not check the pee of government employee and judge Richard Baumgartner, who was gacked out of his brain on drugs while running Knoxville's drug court that even the guilty verdicts in the Christian-Newsom murder case he handled were overturned. That would have saved the state tons of money, prevented all the re-trials headed Knoxville way, and spared the pain and suffering of many, many people. And remember, Baumgartner will still get his full pension and have his record of drug offenses wiped clean in just 2 years time.

Merry Christmas from Elf Campy!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Could Have Been A Potash Tycoon

It really is annoying how I learn more and more as I get older that I don't know diddly-squat about what I thought I knew, and that there are indeed a mere handful of people who control even the basic elements found on the periodic chart and are bajillionaires who live in ways I cannot imagine. On the plus side, at least I can still learn new things about this world. On the downside, at my age, I am unlikely to corner the market of a necessary global commodity and thus will never, ever, ever live for one moment like a bajillionaire.

And these thoughts were instigated by one thing - potash.

I recall learning about potash when I was a young schoolboy - it was an ancient creation, made by burning plants and trees and mixing the resulting ashes into a field where one wanted to grow food. The ashes were loaded with potassium, but we have since found that there are massive sources of potassium already in existence underground, so it is mined and sold worldwide for everything from fertilizer to plastics to textiles and much, much more.

(A side note here - my high school chemistry teacher really did not open up much of an exploration of chemistry as such. She was in the midst of a divorce and was realizing she was a lesbian and was concerned with the daily issues of running a small donut shop with her husband when she taught my class. On the plus side: we had hot fresh donuts every day, usually kept warm in a rather expensive incubator in the chemistry classroom. But I digress.)

As I said, the word potash came up when I read a report yesterday about a 22-year-old Russian lady who just paid the most ever recorded for an apartment - $88 million for a ten-room flat in Manhattan, about $13,000-plus per square foot. She is Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the heir of Potash Tycoon Dmitry Rybolovleva, who last year sold his share of the Russian potash company Uralkali for $6.5 billion. (His Wikipedia page is an oddly translated tale of fabulous wealth and personal strife, including a murder charge for which he was ultimately acquitted. ) Ekatrina is apparently only going to use the apartment when she 'visits' Manhattan.

There are really only a few companies controlling the potassium market - the Potash Corp. of Canada, Uralkali and Belaruskali, and another North American company called Mosaic. But we're not done yet - "The global trade in potash is even more concentrated, with just two syndicates dominant: Canpotex managing sales of the three North American majors, Potash Corp, Mosaic and Agrium; and BPC, a joint venture combining Uralkali and Belaruskali."

According to the report cited above, the price is expected to surge in the next decade, from around $400 a ton to $1500 a ton. Of course, like most items traded on the global markets, the economic collapse in 2008 dropped the price, but it is on the rise again - potash is vital for bio-fuels and for growing more and more food for folks who live in India and China and Brazil and everywhere else. And it's a vital manufacturing component for just about everything.

Potash is Big Business.

And never once did anyone tell me, "Son, invest in potash". And what I thought I knew about potash and potassium turned out to be damned little. And I learned just a wee bit more about the faceless and nameless few who control patents on chemical elements and the global economy.

And like Billy Pilgrim, I sit here all old and stuff, my feet turning blue in the cold, pecking away at a keyboard and being a curmudgeon. "Potash," I mutter to no one. "Potash."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Annual Christmas Monkey Caption Contest with Musical Bonus

We all hold to certain traditions, likely because as necessary as it may be to learn to roll with the constant changes of life itself, there are comforts unexplainable in keeping and holding traditions. And so here we are again at Christmas, and since the first official Cup of Joe Powell blog post for Christmas, I have offered the Annual Christmas Monkey Caption Contest.

No prizes, save those of personal satisfaction, which may well be the reason we keep and hold to our traditions - a moment of personal meaning which we need not explain to anyone. And yes, the ideas expressed so far in this post seem far too serious for Santa Monkey. Still, the fact he (or she) appears but once a year imparts solemnity despite the appearance of hilarity ... which may be the best definition one could make for the word 'tradition'.

So please leave your caption in the comments.

In preparation for this year's posting, I did review those of years past and sadly learned that several of the hand-picked Christmas music I've added over the years have vanished, mostly due to using web sites which ceased to be. Most fortunately this year, I found a pretty darn fine collection via Paste magazine - they offer 40 tracks which you can download for free or just listen to. But I decided to tempt fate again and offer just a few of my favorites from this collection, starting with "The Christmas Waltz" by She and Him, which is actress Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. Zooey has a voice that could melt snow. And while these tunes are all from one collection, each one below has been hand-picked just for you and just for this year. I think it's likely one of the best collections of music I've ever offered here.

Merry Christmas, dear reader, and may it be the best you have had so far.