Monday, March 16, 2009

Interesting week ahead

We had another beautiful weekend. The sun brought a little warmth, a lot more snow went to snow heaven, and more bare ground appeared. Saturday the highest temperature recorded on my unofficial weather station was 47 and yesterday my high went to 53. The upper 40s had been forecast but I told a friend I’d put my money on it getting into the 50s. It did.

I had a little tiny disappointment last evening. The Gators didn’t make the “big dance.” It really wasn’t a surprise as they had a rather weak schedule this year and didn’t win the ones they had to win to get into the NCAA national basketball tourney. Nevertheless, I love this season and I’ll be watching as many of the games as I can right up until that April 6th championship.

The Gators are a top seed in the NIT (National Invitational Tournament) as they were a year ago. The NIT, however, is very low on my list of sports programs to follow.

I do believe this wasn’t the strongest year for college basketball, though. Seems to me there are several rather weak teams dancing. There may even be teams the Gators could have beaten. Florida wouldn’t have gotten past the Sweet Sixteen in any case, even if they were in the tourney.

AIG. What can anyone say about the mess that outfit has gotten us into along with the total disregard for the results of that mess for the American taxpayer, business closing, bankruptcy victim, fired worker, and on and on. They get billions of dollars in bailout money to save their sorry sit-down places and give several million dollars away to the executives who led them into the mess. I hope they spend their money wisely, like in AIG stock. I’d doubt the government would save them again. Maybe the government will let that Madoff guy out so the AIG bunch can invest with him.

We watched another spectacular space launch last night. NASA sent the space shuttle Discovery into space to join up with the International Space Station still under development. The largest component left was aboard the Discovery along with some international personnel. There’s something great about watching that thing lift off and heading into space. I’m always impressed by the calmness in all the folk involved and the amount of contingent safety plans they have in place.

I got a note from my Fearless Friend who, along with his wife, lives in Florida for a few months each year. Their Florida home, although not within direct view of Cape Canaveral, has a good view of the spacecraft after it has reached just a few feet off the ground. He said it was the second most spectacular he had seen and probably would have ranked right up with the best if it had been total darkness and not just dusk.

He described the flight and the rocket discharge as he saw it for five or six minutes after liftoff until it reaches orbit. Unfortunately, at over 17-thousand miles an hour, the space craft quickly lifts out of sight from his home. What he did describe confirmed the spectacle as I saw it on TV.

I’ve always wanted to see a liftoff, but I’m afraid my window of opportunity has closed. When I lived in Florida, I was on the West Coast or in Gainesville so even if space launches had been made then, I probably wouldn’t have seen them.

I’d bet a lot more information on Maine’s shortfall in its Medicaid (MaineCare) budget will be coming out today. Last Friday after most legislators and the news media had left Augusta for the weekend, the Republicans announced the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would be short 235-million dollars for payments for the rest of the fiscal year, about three months.

DHHS officials say the figure was misinterpreted; the shortage is only about $65-million with the rest being from federal reimbursements or payments. In any case, it’s money that will have to be found from a budget already decimated to cover a huge shortfall in other accounts for this fiscal year. I don’t know why the DHHS or Governor Baldacci didn’t let the taxpayers know much earlier. He didn’t mention it in his State of the State address last week.

We’re told that much of the money will be covered by the Federal Government Spending Package (stimulus) that was passed a couple weeks ago. Seems to me Maine’s portion of that spending package will be running a little thin before long.

The shortfall didn’t get very much play in the weekend news. There’s no surprise there. The news media will do all it can to protect the Democrats running the state. There should be, however, much more news on this coming out beginning later today. It’s going to be a fun debate to watch.


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