Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hillary our next Prez?

Just got back from an event in Washington D.C. sponsored by BASF The Chemical Company. A nice affair that featured Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of "The Cook Political Report" as a dinner speaker. Charlie's as quick as a whip and he gets a devilish delight in reporting on the whispers in the corridors and the backroom plotting in our nation's capital. With his cherubic animated face and his middle-age spread putting a decided southern dip in his beltline, he's a sight to behold when he gets on a roll, pulling out papers left and right and referring to this poll and that survey and whatever else he can pluck out of the swirling, ever-changing D.C. scene.

But enough of this, here's what he had to say about the mid-term congressional elections that approach:

The "Macro View" is that the Democrats could pull a "'94 Gingrich" loooking atthe President's pathetic popularity rating and the public's general dissatisfaction with a lot of things, from the Iraq war to the price of gasoline.

The "Micro View" is that to gain a majority in either the Senate of the House, the Democrats are going to have to "run the table" on the five or six vulnerable Republicans up for re-election and the several dozen Republican House members that want to keep getting their great government perks.

In other words, as Charlie says, "I have no idea."

Now for Hillary. Yes, she's the most recognizable Democrat on the national statge right now and the only other Democrats mentioned as serious candidates are Kerry and Gore. "Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt," says Charlie
But it's a long way until 2008.

As for the Republicans, John McCain looks like the frontrunner but by 2009 he will be 72 years old. Condi Rice, somebody asked? Nope, says Charlie, she says she will NOT run. In any event, it will be a hard row to hoe for any RRepublican candidate in light of President Bush's falling approval ratings and the fact that it's mightly tough for the same party to win a presidential election after holding the presidency for two terms. Only been done once in the 50-plus years since WWII, says Charlie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Those pesky pesky pesticides

Here's a news flash that both stuns and enlightens — Chemists at the Colorado School of Mines recently announced that they discovered pesticides in tobacco smoke. Apparently the pesticides got there because farmers use them to grow tobacco. The big news, at least from the chemists' point of view is that this is the first time they have been detected in tobacco smoke. They used electron monochromator mass spectrometry to discover trace amounts of flumetralin, endocrine, pendimethalin and trifluralin.

There you go. If you needed another reason to quit smoking, apart from lung cancer or heart disease that is, now you've got it.

Or, as Rose Annadanna says. . . "if it ain't one thing, it's another." (gosh, I thought Gilda Radner was swell) — Ron Hall

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

This book means 'business'

“Business Principles of Landscape Contracting” is a practical book on the “business” of running a landscape company. It's a "must have" for young managers or owners that are relatively new to running their own show since its focus is on business and systems and not on the technical details of how to install or maintain landscapes. Author Dr. Steven M. Cohan delivers business principles and examples in an easy to comprehend style, and shares the credit for the much of the information with fellow academics and successful landscape professionals who contributed case studies and reviewed drafts of the work.

Cohan is on the faculty of the University of Maryland’s Natural Resource Sciences and Landscape Architecture Department and uses this book, a text, to help prepare his students for the real world of landscape contracting. Why should they have this book all to themselves? It has too much practical information to keep in a classroom.

This book published by Pearson Prentice Hall, is available from the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) Web site Click on the bookstore and type in the title. Cost is $85 for PLANET members and $100 for non-members. — Ron Hall

Friday, April 14, 2006

Unionized guest workers? You betcha!

Global Horizons, a big labor recruiter based in Los Angeles, signed an agreement with the United Farm Workers of America to improve wages, benefits and working conditions for the H-2A seasonal ag guest workers it brings into the United States. This is believed to be the first agreement of its kind involving a guest worker program. There are important differences between the H-2A (ag) and H-2B (seasonal non-ag labor) guest workers programs, but the significance of the agreement shouldn't be lost on non-ag labor recruiters or the contractors that use their services. Click on the headline above and read more about the Global Horizons deal. Or check out the AP article in a Houston newspaper at — Ron Hall

Fake grass has fascinating history

Remember AstroTurf? Of course, you do. In fact, the trade name became so well known that an entire generation used it to describe synthetic turf in general. Well AstroTurf is back. In fact, it probably never went away but you don't hear it mentioned often because of the more aggressive marketing by other synthetic turf providers.

That said, check out the following Web site to get the fascinating history of this product. — Ron Hall

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I wonder what would happen if . . .

I wonder what would happen if I sneaked into, say, southern France (I've heard that's a swell place to live) and I started marching around the streets, waving an American flag and demanding that the government there not only allow me to stay, but provide me with health care and other social services but in a language that I can understand, English, not French?

What do you think? — Ron Hall

Saturday, April 08, 2006

U.S., Mexico, Canada — one big country?

Ultra-conservative Joseph Farah, founder and editor WorldNetDaily, claims there are 20 to 30 million "illegals" in the United States and that the Council on Foreign Relations has a plan to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada within the decade. He says President Bush's efforts to get a Guest Worker program in place are steps in this direction. He says a lot of the immigration fuss, including the big pro-immigrant marches and demonstrations that coincided with the recent Senate debate on immigration reform are being set up by "globalists". Sounds nutty but here's the link anyway. — Ron Hall

Friday, April 07, 2006

OK, here's the deal with immigration reform

How did things get so out of control with this immigration mess? It didn't happen overnight that's for sure. It didn't happen by accident either. It happened for a reason. Or maybe many reasons, most of them being political and economic.

So, what do do? Actually, the better question is what CAN we do? Realistically that is.

Sending all the illegals back to where they came from is nonsensical. It can't be done. No reason to bicker about this. They're here, and they're going to stay here. The only option that makes sense is to allow them to blend into society.

Strengthen the borders? That's a no-brainer too. Nations have borders and they have laws. They have to enforce both. Simple.

Expand and maintain guest worker programs? Wish we didn't need them, but we do. We need the high-tech brain power that's coming from places like India's incredible technical schools and we need the manpower from Mexico and Central American ranchos.

Monitor these programs closely and penalize employers who break the law, especially in regards to hiring illegals? You bet. Once we get workable guest worker programs that require foreigners to return to their home countries and families, there's no reason to hire illegals. — Ron Hall

Monday, April 03, 2006

Immigration not just a landscapers' issue

If you haven't seen it yet, this week's edition of the satirical news Web site The Onion had its own take on the national immigration debate taking place. — Mike Seuffert

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Home gardening interest falling

The National Gardening Association has been tracking the lawn and garden market for more than 25 years, and is not happy with the trends it's seen lately. The garden business has essentially stalled over the last two years.

The NGA says that three of four households in the United States (80 million households) have participated in one or more types of indoor and outdoor do-it-yourself lawn and garden activities annually for the last five years, that number has shown a decline in two of the last three years. Fewer than half of all households (48%) did their own lawn care last year, and even fewer have a flower garden (36%) or a vegetable garden (22%). Those are the lowest numbers the NGA has seen in the last five years. It seems that for most people today, if an activity doesn’t come with a remote control or a keyboard, they’re not really interested, said the NGA.

Three years ago sales for all types of lawn and garden products – green goods, including plants or trees, shrubs, seeds, and bulbs; hard goods lines such as outdoor power equipment and tools; bagged goods like fertilizer and soils; and lawn and garden packaged goods – totaled $39.6 billion. Last year sales for these same lawn and garden product categories totaled $36.8 billion. That’s a decrease of only 7%, but it’s happened during the hottest housing market the country has seen in more than a decade. You would think that lawn and garden sales would benefit from the recent real estate boom, but they haven’t. About 80% of households in the United States are single-family homes with a yard, and for most people their home is their single largest investment. It seems odd that, on an annual basis, most people spend far more than twice as much on gasoline than they do to maintain their quality of life at home and improve their real estate equity by investing in their lawns and landscapes.

Most people spend less than 1% of their annual household income each year on their lawns and gardens. Last year the nationwide average spent on lawn and garden activities was $449, which was down from $457 the previous year and $466 the year before that. Whether your annual household income is $50,000 (which is about the median household income in the United States) or $100,000, almost no one in this country spends more than 1% of their annual income on their lawns and gardens.

The National Gardening Association is an organization dedicated to building and strengthening the connection between people, plants, and the environment. In a nutshell, we are about changing peoples’ attitudes toward gardening. Much of our work is focused on helping children experience gardening as an enjoyable, hands-on learning medium; a key element for health and wellness; and a fun and rewarding activity, among other benefits. An argument could be made that the downward trend in the lawn and garden industry is a reflection of the growing gap in the people-plant connection.

To learn more about the NGA visit the Web site

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Control the border, pay more?

"People have dual interests," says Jared Bernstein, an economist speaking about the immigration reform debate now before Congress. "Ask them, do you want your lawn to be mowed as cheaply as possible? They'll say yes. Ask if they want to control the border. They'll say yes. Ask them if controlling the borders means they're willing to pay more for lawn care, they'll say how much? And that's what we're going to find out."