Posted by: platmap | December 21, 2012

Photos I Like

testing smugmug

Posted by: platmap | March 30, 2009

Obama Spot On with GM, Chrysler Bailout

Many people are bewailing the apparent difference in treatment between failing Wall St. companies and failing US auto companies.  Democrats and Republicans both are taking President Obama to task for these differences, suggesting that he secretly is in bed with the high finance crowd and, like seemingly everyone else inside the DC Beltway, secretly opposed to good old American blue collar workers.

These accusations are unfounded. Here is why:

  1. With the banks the government can act through the Federal Reserve and/or the FDIC in order to create a de facto condition of receivership without resorting to de jure bankruptcy. As we have seen, these can be an extraordinarily flexible mechanisms — credit windows, discount windows, transfer of assets on and off the Fed balance sheet, preferred stock purchases, and so forth. None of these options likely would be available to a bankruptcy judge under standard bankruptcy code. Naturally, then, we see markedly different behavior toward the banks than we do toward other industries.
  2. With the auto companies, no such intermediary organizations exist. Earlier bailout funds, it is true, were funnelled from the Fed to the finance arms of the auto companies (e.g., GMAC), and thence to their umbrella organizations. This was a fudgy conduit at best all along, and in the context of repeat and/or continual “bailout” probably is extra-legal on its face.  Still, I have no doubt that the same path would have been in play had the day-forward recovery plans from GM and Chrysler been deemed viable by the administration.  They were not.  Since the auto companies have made it clear that they will not declare a formal bankruptcy, the administration has no viable mechanisms left to them but to force a condition of bankruptcy — making operating and warranty funds available in the short term, dictating a series of reorganization hurdles and timeframes, and ousting existing leadership.  All of these things likely would have happened under a court-administered bankruptcy.  Anything more than this, no matter how much we might faunch and moan, probably are extra-legal and perhaps extra-constitutional.
  3. “Structured bankruptcy” under existing bankruptcy code is the negative end point to the administration policy. The positive end point is profitable restructuring (GM) and profitable merger (Chrysler).  Any other end points would require the Executive Branch to take on the burden of administering a de facto bankruptcy proceeding, a task by law reserved to the Judicial Branch. Today’s actions by the administration move very close to that territory (Wagoner’s resignation, the assumption of warranty costs by the government, and the 30/60 day timelines all are data points suggesting a bankruptcy proceeding rather than a standard corporate or labor negotiation). But the administration was explicit that the “…best chance at success may well require utilizing the bankruptcy code in a quick and surgical way.” In other words, per existing constitutional and bankruptcy law the established Judiciary will have final authority of the automotive business, just as it does for all other non-finance businesses.
  4. The only way around this, as I see it, would be for Congress to authorize a sort of “Automotive Federal Reserve” that legally could step in at times like this. This is not likely. Obama could pull a page from the Truman/Reagan playbook and nationalize the auto industry under inherent war powers (largely repudiated in Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer) or Taft-Hartley (explicitly designed for labor disputes). Again, neither are at all likely and both probably are extra-legal.

If President Obama were to intervene as people are breathlessly demanding, those same people subsequently would have to impeach him for radically overstepping the constitutional powers of his office.

Posted by: platmap | March 17, 2009

Testing for Facebook

Test for Facebook

Posted by: platmap | February 2, 2009

Birds In My Yard

So many birds have started coming to my back yard that I have started keeping a list of them. I suspect but cannot prove that they come to my yard and not my neighbors’ yards (much) because I do not treat with insecticides and herbicides.  Also, some previous homeowner decades ago put in a few berry-producing  plants and trees that some species seem to like.

Sunday February 1, 2009

1.  Common Flicker (Colaptes auratus). One male individual, probably part of the mating pair that has nested in a craggy old tree here for the past several years. Have not seen or heard the female yet.

2.  Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum). One individual, the first I have seen here. Western North Carolina is within the Thrasher’s breeding range, but they normally are not resident here year round.

3.  Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum).  Over 30 individuals clustered like grapes along the branches of berry-producing shrubs and trees. Some individuals lacked red tips on their secondaries and therefore probably are last season’s juveniles.

4.  European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Two individuals with heavily speckled winter plumage and dark bills. The hid in the brush, but also foraged freely on open ground, walking rather than hopping like a robin.

5.  Lincoln’s Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii). One individual flitting through fallen leaves and foraging along the edges of the yard. Smaller than a Song Sparrow or Fox Sparrow. More tawny than a Savannah Sparrow.

6.  American Robin (Turdus migratorius).  More than 30 individuals of both genders foraging mostly on the open ground, but also eating berries from shrubs and trees from time to time, alongside the Cedar Waxwings. We haven’t seen many robins lately, but suddenly there are masses of them.

7.  Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens).  One individual male cruising the tree trunks and branches. Smaller than a Hairy Woodpecker, but very similarly marked.

8.  American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos). 5-8 individuals visiting at various times through the day, often together.

9.  Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). A number of individuals, many of them already flying and playing in apparent mating pairs.

Monday February 2, 2009

1.  Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). A male individual systematically testing the trunks and large branches of every tree in the yard. Stopped for a long time at a wild cherry tree I know to host a colony of carpenter ants (I need to do something about that colony before it buds off into my house). I always forget how magnificent Pileated Woodpeckers are.

2.  Red Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus).  Although these are resident in this area year round, I never have seen one before. This adult individual arrived only minutes after the Pileated Woodpecker above, but lingered on a Carolina Hemlock rather than the wild cherry.

3.  More American Robins, foraging as they did yesterday.

Posted by: platmap | October 11, 2007

Melissa McClure Lindholm


Melissa McClure Lindholm
May 12, 1966 – September 17, 2007

Melissa McClure Lindholm, 41, of Asheville, NC, died at her home on September 17th, 2007 following a 13 month struggle with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.

She is survived by her husband, James Robert Atkinson; two sons, William Sharpe Lindholm Atkinson, 6, and Harrison McClure Lindholm Atkinson, 3; step-daughter, Hannah Rebecca Cameron-Atkinson, 12, of Quincy, IL, her mother and step-father, Susan Lewis and William Robert Winslow of Mt. Pleasant, SC, her father and step-mother, Robert and Joyce Lindholm of Lindsborg, KS, her sister, Christina Lindholm Oxford, also of Mt. Pleasant, SC, and her grandmother, Dorothy Sharpe Lewis, of Charleston, SC.

She was a 1983 American Field Service exchange student to Istanbul, Turkey, and a 1984 graduate of Jefferson City (MO) Senior High School. She earned a BS in Biology from Bryn Mawr College in 1988, an MS in Neurobiology and an MAT in Secondary Education from Cornell University in 1991, and an AA in Metalsmithing from Haywood Community College in 1997.

She taught Biology and Science at North Buncombe County (NC) High School, and for several years was a Science Educator and Summer Camp Director at The Health Adventure in Asheville, NC.

Services will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, NC on Saturday October 20th, 2007 at 2pm. A reception will follow at the church. All are welcome to attend.

Donations of cash or appreciated securities are suggested to:

Traditions Acupuncture Clinic
c/o M. Cissy Majebe
382 Montford Ave.
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 258-9016

Bryn Mawr College
101 North Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
The Health Adventure
c/o The Melissa Lindholm Scholarship Fund
PO Box 180
Asheville, NC 28802
(828) 254-6373

The Mountain Retreat and Learning Centers
3872 Dillard Road
P.O. Box 1299
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-5838, ext 230

Posted by: platmap | October 16, 2006

Cancer Memoirs

Cancer memoirs.  Not a category of book that I would normally gravitate to, given free choice.  But now my wife and best friend has cancer and so we will write our own cancer memoir, if only through the stories we tell about it.

So I become curious.  How do other people told their stories.  How have they stumbled through the disease and the treatment?  Have they rewritten important parts of their stories in order to emphasize “fight against the disease” theme?  The “hero prevailing against all odds” plotline? The “found a miracle cure despite the arrogance of western medicine” meme?  Does one spouse or friend or partner tell the story?  Does the person with the disease become a silent voice on the page?  Tonto peeking out from behind the Lone Ranger?  The Madwoman in the Attic?

The few memoirs I have read thus far (my wife’s diagnosis came only a little over a month ago) all have male authors. 

One, Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About The Bike , has offered the best introduction to the cancer diagnosis and treatment process.  I especially appreciate his unflinching and realistic descriptions of chemotherapy, which my wife and I are discovering have not changed much in the past ten years despite glowing marketing from the anti-nausea pharmeceutical crowd.   But Armstrong himself is an aggressive, narcissistic and altogether unattractive character.  He throws over the woman who stood with him during his treatment, took up with “a stud” named Kik, whom he promptly wedges into a Barbie show-wife role.  He praises her for the attentions she lavishes on him, but resolutely ignores her when she does non-Lance things…like go into labor.  “OK honey, let me order some beers and I’ll fly home…”

(Do go to Armstrong’s, however, and read, learn, donate, volunteer…great site, great organization).

Brendan Halpin’s It Takes A Worried Man at least is honest.  Halpin worries about getting laid during and after the cancer treatment.  He ogles the nurses.  He cries about losing his wife.  He does all the sorts of things that many men probably do in the same situations, and that’s the problem.  Stereotypical male behavior is unattractive, and I forever wondered what was happening with his wife, who after all is the one suffering through the disease and its treatment.

Gene Wilder’s memoir, Kiss Me Like a Stranger, offers sections on Gilda Radner’s cancer and death, and also on his own treatment for Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  The latter description is more detailed than the former, but both sections dwell on “when do I get laid again?” themes to a greater extent than I was hoping for.   Dissapointing overall, but I confess a renewed desire to watch all the old Wilder movies like Start the Revolution Without Me, All You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, and Young Frankenstein.  (We own Willie Wonka, and our Oompa Loompa tank is full).

I know that there must be a million other cancer memoirs out there.  Let me know what you’ve read and what has been useful to you.  I’ll read ’em all.