Sunday, January 30, 2011


Hosni Mubarak, January 30, 2011.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

weekend at porky's

This weekend as the American delegation of the global oligarchy and ruling class returns stateside after a four-day lobster feed and feel-good session in Davos, Switzerland, they'll reconvene for the Koch brothers' annual Warren G. Harding Memorial Barbecue and Festival of Larceny at the Rancho las Palmas resort, near Palm Springs.

Palm Springs' Desert Sun newspaper reports: Previous meetings, held in the desert and elsewhere, have featured two Supreme Court justices (guess which two), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sens. Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

As you can see in the Desert Sun article, Greenpeace plans to mount a feeble protest against this convocation of capitalist buccaneers, blue-blooded aristocrats, and their political and media errand boys with a helium balloon bearing an anti-Koch message on its side. And a group of protestors will gather in Rancho Mirage, miles away from the site where our porcine rulers are eating their bacon.

It's really a shame they won't be subjected to a little Egyptian-style democracy. Because after watching al-Jazeera for a while today, I can tell you that's all that's going on in Egypt. It's not about Islamism or any other -ism. The people on the streets over there are the Egyptian people, and they're expressing years of pent-up grievances in the only way available to them.

The world's plutocrats meeting in Davos took little or no notice of the Egyptian eruption of democracy, but they will before long, because it's coming our way. Maybe next year we can have a real people's barbecue at Porky's, and turn up the heat on the revelers inside.

Friday, January 28, 2011

state of the union

Rather than talk about the actual State of the Union the other night, Obama gave the old "The future is rosy and we'll all get pie in the sky (when we die)" pitch. The actual true condition of the country is not so good.

Of American workers, 9.4 percent are unemployed, an extremely high figure compared to what it's been over most of the last 100 years, according to the US government's standard measurement, or U-3 measure of unemployment. However, this does not include workers who want or need a job but have grown too discouraged to actively look for work, or those who are underemployed, i.e., working part time but seeking full-time jobs. Adding them in yields the more candid U-6 measure of unemployment of 16.7 percent. This means that 167 of every 1,000 US workers is either without a job or underemployed.

The U.S. consumes about 21 million barrels of oil per day (25% of the worldwide consumption total of 84 million barrels per day), of which two-thirds is imported and a third produced domestically. Ninety-three percent of the oil we consume is used for transportation, and the typical American household, on average, buys 1,000 gallons a year. Oil is a diminishing resource upon which the world and national economies are totally dependent, and over the last ten years it has more than doubled in price.

Then there's the debt, which has now edged up past 14 trillion dollars, which means Congress will soon be obligated to raise the legally permissible debt limit -- again. How important the debt and debt limit are depends on who you talk to. My own feeling is that we ought to try to cut back spending enough to turn the annual deficit into a small surplus and begin to pay the debt down. But what to cut?

Government expenditures are usually reported dishonestly. For example, Social Security, often listed as 19 percent of the annual federal expenditure, shouldn't be counted because it's entirely funded by its own special trust fund, which is solvent at the moment and could be made so in perpetuity with minor adjustments. Since the U.S. spends nearly as much as the rest of the world combined on weapons, wars, preparations for wars, and defense, that's the natural place to cut.

But here again, determining what we actually spend on "defense" depends on who you talk to. The around-25 percent of the budget usually cited doesn't include the billions we've spent pursuing our various Mideast wars, the costs of veterans' benefits and pensions, interest on the national debt due to war spending (at least half our interest payments), or related defense expenditures such as the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA budget. Add all those things in and you're looking at half the federal budget.

So what's the state of the union? I give it a D or a D-. The main problem is we're not honestly acknowledging our real problems, and if we don't face them we can't deal with them.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

armstrong again

I just can't get enough of this guy lately, especially the stuff he recorded during the 10-piece orchestra years around 1930, when he was at the peak of his creative power.

I just stumbled across this gem yesterday, immortalized on wax by Okeh Records in May of 1930: Exactly Like You.

By 1928 Armstrong realized that wherever he played and sang, he was the show, and he didn't really need to mess with running a group because it didn't make much difference who he played with. He decided to devote all his energies to marathon-style playing and singing, undistracted by leadership functions, and in 1928 began fronting Carroll Dickerson's 10-piece dance orchestra, leaving Dickerson in charge as musical director. The arrangement suited him; he made his greatest records with this combination in 1929 through '31.

You have to wonder when he found time to record. Starting in 1929 he worked in the pit Orchestra of the Broadway Show "Hot Chocolates," which he stole nightly with his vocalizing on Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'." Then, as soon as the show ended, he'd hurry off to Connie's Inn where he starred with Dickerson's orchestra. When Connie's closed for the night Armstrong put in one more shift, a late-night performance at the LaFayette Theatre, right next door at Seventh Avenue at 132nd Street.

His stamina and prolific output left a huge body of work for all to enjoy and some to revere.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


It was a great speech, but actions speak louder than words.

For example, on the subject of ending taxpayer subsidies to oil companies, nice thought, but I'll believe it when I see it.

Same for implementing a broad federal policy of replacing coal-burning electrical generating plants with new, cleaner ways of powering them. Was the speech a wish list or a to-do list?

And I'm surprised he had the nerve to even mention his dislike of tax breaks for millionaires after the way he folded like a wet sack when push came to shove on that issue.

Obama's always been an excellent speaker and he talks a great game. But after watching him actually playing the game these past two years, I've concluded he either can't or won't deliver what he says he will. And let's hope it's the former, because if it's the latter that would make him an even bigger fraud than Ronald "Mr. Balanced Budget" Reagan.

I would like nothing more than to find out I'm totally wrong about this guy. But I'm 99 percent sure I'm not, and that this speech, fine as it was, didn't amount to anything more than warm air.

Afterthought: There is no such thing as "clean coal." It only exists in parallel universes where everyone has a job, children never misbehave, and lovely, white unicorns graze in the pristine meadows.

Monday, January 24, 2011

in a mist

During a temporary break in the rain this morning, as I drove south on Meridian near Northgate, I caught a glimpse of the downtown Seattle skyline floating in the semi-sunny mist, framed by the trees lining both sides of the road.

Even though the downtown skyscrapers are ecologically unfriendly as well as hives of frenetic activity, there was something deeply peaceful about the scene. It felt like looking at something old, classical, and tranquil, like a Chinese scroll painting of those lumpy hills of theirs, shrouded in fog.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

what's it worth?

David Korten, a blogger who also writes books, has a cut-to-the-chase analysis of the differences between money, or abstract wealth, and the real deal -- things like "healthful food, fertile land, pure water, clean air, caring relationships and loving parents, education, health care, fulfilling opportunities for service, and time for meditation and spiritual reflection."

"Money," Korten explains, "a number on a piece of paper or created with an accounting enter, has no intrinsic value. Wall Street generates it in astonishing quantities through accounting tricks, financial bubbles, and debt pyramids. It appears from nowhere and can disappear in an instant, as a phantom in the night."

Of course, because it takes money to acquire some of the necessary elements of real value, "It is easy to confuse phantom financial assets with the real wealth for which they can be exchanged."

The essay is an excerpt from the second edition of Korten's book, "Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth."

These are aspects of economics they don't touch on in university classes, but in the changed material landscape that's quickly evolving, we're re-learning the most fundamental economic lesson -- that we can't have a healthy economy unless its primary focus is the production of tangible things of real value. Plus, there are some forms of wealth that are beyond economics. How much is a feeling of satisfaction worth?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

my condition

I hope readers can forgive my intermittent recent posting history. The illness I'm dealing with changes constantly, and the very aggressive measures I take to fight it shift along with the condition. Sometimes the results are unpredictable.

The newest weapon in the ongoing battle against my own brain is large amounts of cod liver oil, which tends to produce a kind of manic euphoria followed by a collapse of energy. Too much of it and the tremors return, and then I have to take pharmaceutical levodopa -- something I'd rather not do.

The optimal writing window opens up in that wonderful space between overstimulation and lethargy, and I trust that I'll soon find the balance necessary to write every day again. Over time I find my condition remaining stable as I adjust the many counter-measures I use to address it. My outlook is positive, and my overall physical well-being improving, so I can't really complain.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

new new deal

I really like this quote from David Rosenberg, a real economist who works for the investment firm Gluskin Sheff. It's the best short description of the new economic reality in our pilfered and impoverished new republic I've seen yet.

“The economy remains on government-assisted life support, and the government has been very successful in creating the illusion of economic prosperity. It is doing this to buy time and help preserve social stability as the adjustment towards housing deflation, consumer deleveraging, and chronic unemployment takes its toll on the growth rate in organic final demand.”

Translated into laymanese, this means that the "recovery" is a scam, that the housing market is permanently collapsed, and that people from now on will not have as much money to buy stuff as they did in previous times, because not nearly as many of us are going to be working, or at least not working at officially recognized "jobs" for "da man."

It looks bad, but there's a silver lining. It means consumerism is significantly weakened, that we're going to be driving fewer miles in fewer cars, and this will have a positive environmental impact. People will have more free time to raise their kids and live their lives under less pressure from the rat race, which has slowed considerably. The economy won't return to its formerly frenetic level because demand, the one and only driver of modern industrial economies, has departed, and gone to China.

Maybe the Chinese can handle consumerism with a little more grace than we did, but I doubt it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I don't know how I missed this when news came out a week ago. Probably I was distracted by all the furor about the Arizona massacre.

Apparently back in December, some rich bozo in Palm Springs was arrested for threatening the life of Seattle's Congressman and my district's representative, Jim McDermott.

In the first call, (Charles) Habermann said he’d seen McDermott on television and was enraged by his comments opposing tax cuts for the rich.

“He’s a piece of human filth. He’s a liar, he’s a communist, he’s a piece of [expletive] garbage,” Habermann said in the recorded message, according to the criminal complaint. Habermann said George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other U.S. founding fathers would “blow his [McDermott's] brains out” if they met him.

Habermann then threatened to kill McDermott as well as his friends and family, the complaint says. In a second call, Habermann said he had “a lot of money” and “a lot of friends” and that McDermott was “going down.”

It's probably not the first time he's received such threats, since McDermott is one of the few members of Congress who possesses a heart, a brain, and a spine, as his public condemnation of Obama's extension of tax cuts for billionaires clearly shows. This particular case consisted of a lot more smoke than fire, though, as a lot of them do.

For one thing, the would-be assassin called McDermott from Palm Springs, 1200 miles from McDermott's district here in Seattle and over 3000 miles from D.C. Great strategy, Charlie, letting them know way in advance you're coming for them.

Secondly, he vented his intentions all over McDermott's voice mail recording. So we're not dealing with the sharpest tool in the shed here. He also bragged about how much money he's got, a universal trait of rich people who are also stupid.

Everybody on God's green earth is assigned a role to play. Jesus said, "I am the door," and this fellow Mr. Charles Turner Habermann could with justification say, "I am the door-stop," which would be fine if he wasn't so noisy about it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

digging the roots

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is changing his tactics. Over the past few years he has concentrated his efforts on revealing U.S. government, and especially the Pentagons' and Security Agencies' documented abuses of power. All indications are that in 2011 he is planning to attack the powers behind the government, the plutocrat puppeteers who use their fortunes to pull the strings of our elected and appointed officials.

Even while he was fighting to get out of jail in England at the end of 2010, Assange announced he was preparing a major dump of documents drawn from the hard drive of a top executive in "one of the largest U.S. banks." While he hasn't named the institution, most informed observers believe it's Bank of America, and that we can expect to see hard evidence of massive illegalities perpetrated by B of A and other institutions prior to and during the mortgage-and-derivatives meltdown of 2007-08 and beyond. We might even get a look at the kinds of shennanigans and pressures the banks brought to bear on the government when they were shaking us down for the TARP heists, as well as the details of other, more secret payouts.

In addition, Assange recently was publicly given documents by a disgruntled former Swiss bank employee which contain detailed information about offshore bank accounts owned by superrich individuals and corporations. Most of these accounts are set up for tax avoidance. Rudolf Elmer, according to the Reuters coverage, "headed the office of Julius Baer in the Cayman Islands until he was fired by the bank in 2002. He is scheduled to go on trial in Switzerland on Wednesday for breaching bank secrecy."

"Swiss national Elmer handed Assange the data at a news conference at a media club in London. The two yellow and blue discs contain information on around 2,000 banking clients, both individuals and companies, he said, declining to reveal further details on the data," the Reuters coverage said.

Assange's new emphasis on revealing the secrets of the international ruling class is the next logical step in the ongoing awakening of the working and impoverished classes in America and elsewhere. My gut feeling is that once they learn how blatantly they've been robbed and abused, people will demand changes, and will refuse to be stalled or put off with panaceas, lame answers, or the usual Fox News and CNN lies and evasions.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

season finalé

What exactly is a sea hawk? Wikipedia tells me that the osprey, or fish eagle is sometimes so called.

The Seahawks brand resulted from a popular contest in which over 20,000 fans participated and over 5,000 suggestions were offered. The name "Seattle Fisheagles" was duly rejected, and since 1976 the hawks have been our beloved NFL gladitorial franchise.

Yes, Seattle DOES have professional sports teams, although I pay them little attention. I don't like the ritualized warfare of foop-ball, am bored speechless by baseball's narcoleptic "action," and while basketball has its moments, our pro team decamped a few years back for (of all places) Oklahoma City. Plus, Seattle's teams are generally hapless.

I suppose I could generate or fake an interest in the Seahawks, however. Until 2000 they played in the Kingdome, a dreadful, cold, leaky concrete shell that was equally unsuitable for watching athletic contests or listening to concerts. It was mercifully imploded, and since 2001 the hawks have been at Qwest field, where the game is played outdoors, as God intended.

And they did have what has to be counted as a successful season this year. After compiling their usually mediocre 6-9 record going into the final "must-win" game of the season, they pulled out a victory against St. Louis, then won a first-round playoff game against New Orleans.

You have to know a little about Seahawks history to realize that any year in which they win even a single playoff game is lavishly successful by local standards. So the fact that they're losing badly in Chicago even as I type this is of little consequence. It simply means the world has returned to its regular axial rotation.

And considering that kind of success, maybe next year I'll buy me a blue jersey, ante up, and join the salivating and beslobbered fanatics at Qwest Field, cheering on our dear old Fisheagles.


I know for sure that one is actually a lot older than the other, so they're really NOT identical twins.

In fact, they're not similar at all. It's just a pigment of your imagination.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Those good old FF's

The thing I always keep in mind is that those good old FF's wore knee britches wth long socks. And wigs, which sounds pretty nasty. They also wore shirts with lace ruffs on them, long coats and waistcoats with shiny buttons, and leather shoes with metal buckles.

They didn't look like us or act the way we do. They didn't even smell like us.

Their outlook on the world was as different from ours as their appearance was. It wasn't even the same planet they were living on. So it's really kind of silly wondering what advice they'd give us today.

Imagine one of the FF's magically transported through time to the present, landing at a major metropolitan airport, getting picked up in a car, going 80 on a freeway to somebody's house in a suburb, eating chicken and mashed potatoes for dinner, and then sitting on a couch in the living room watching re-runs of the Dukes of Hazzard.

You might say that's ridiculous, but it's no more ridiculous than wondering what John Adams would think of the NRA, or what George Washington's opinion would be about Sarah Palin's Facebook page.

Come to think of it, maybe this is not so ridiculous after all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Sure, the US is politically deeply divided, except I think "divided" isn't sufficient to describe us.

"Bipolar" would be more like it.

Sometimes, though, I'm not sure what we're even arguing about, since government in the U.S. today is privately owned by the Lords of Capital, and we really have no say in any of it. We're all of us just living in the empty shell of a former democratic republic called the USA and tryin to do as well for ourselves as we can.

The Lords and Ladies are still scared of us though. They're scared as hell that some of us might be able to see and speak the truth -- about them, or about the war, or the banks, or the environment. So to counter and suppress the truth, they run Operation Brainwash through the mass media, mostly TV (which should be avoided like plague), and fund the right-wing noise machine which engulfs our public discourse like a flood of bullshit, 24/7.

Some, who are too dense to know when they're being played for suckers, parrot the nonsense they hear on Fox News or CNN or read in Newsweak magazine. Others learn to think for themselves and express their own thoughts effectively. Such behavior is strongly discouraged in the capital-intensive USA, but there ain't no law against it yet.

Add that level of bipolarization to a penchant for violence and you get trouble, like we got today. And I know how to be violent like all Americans do, since we were all raised by cowboys on TV and in the movies. Whatcha do is shoot first and ask questions later.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Just what is it that makes today's food choices so different, so appealing?

In a word, it's foodsprinkles.

Whether you're chowing down with a hearty breakfast, or nibbling and noshing through a breezy brunch, foodprinkles are the perfect complement to the occasion.

So easy, so convenient. Tastes great. Lasts a long time.


I like it. It's good.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

step zero

After what happened yesterday in Arizona, what concerns me more than Sarah P trying to be coyly inflammatory in her graphics and rhetoric is the fact that this kid Jared Loughner, the shooter, had a lethal weapon, even though he is a certifiable nut whose delusional behavior had been noted several times by local police.

He's sufficiently unhinged to have gotten himself kicked out of his local junior college after five classroom or library incidents where police had to be called, but apparently had no trouble obtaining a weapon.

But why should he have trouble doing so? The NRA wants easy access to weapons for everyone including criminals, drunks, the insane, and the criminally insane, and thanks to them the gun business is booming (so to speak) in Arizona, whose dealers are happily supplying the weaponry for all sides in the Mexican drug wars. Weapons manufacturing and sales is one of the few growth industries left in the U.S.,

I've got nothing against the notion that every citizen should be allowed to possess a firearm for self-protection, as long as said citizens are in possession of themselves. But America's penchant for violence, especially gun violence, as the easy and natural solution to every problem has to be confronted and rooted out, like the disease it is. If the NRA doesn't like it, screw them.

I'm going to be very interested to find out exactly how Jared Loughner got his hands on the weapon he killed six people with, considering that he was well-documented and known within his community as a tinfoil hat type. If he bought it at a gun shop, I'd like to know whether the sales person looked into the history of his relations with the Tucson police department.

We're at step zero in this country with gun violence. Step zero is "this shit's gotta stop."

Click on the image for a larger view.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

tarjetas de loteria

I know nothing about the history of Mexican loteria cards, other than the obvious fact that like tarot cards, they were invented for purposes of playing a game, in this case bingo.

Also, like the tarot trumps and the Fool card, they are not simply game tokens but also iconic images, imbued with symbolic meanings which are not always immediately apparent. A person would have to be singularly devoid of curiosity and imagination not to wonder what the loteria set's number 27 image of a transfixed heart symbolized to the person who created it.

There is no standard set of images for the tarot deck any more. The Tarot de Marseilles used to fill that role, but it's been supplanted since 1900 by a proliferation of designs and intentions from which devotees can choose their favorites to suit their own interpretation of the cards. The loteria cards, however, are most often seen in their standardized, "authentic" version, universally recognized as the Don Clemente Series 1 set of 54 images. But people are in no way constrained from producing their own versions of the loteria images or replacing the classical pictures with images of their own which they find resonant, and I love the personal interpretation of the loteria cards made in the late nineties by Tejana artist Cristina Sosa Noriega simply titled My Loteria.

I don't know how widely the loteria cards are used for divination among Mexican and Chicano people, but considering the potency of these folk art images, I'd be willing to bet they're used that way a lot. Some of the cards such as 14 El Muerto (death) need no interpretation (or introduction), but others, like the transfixed heart, demand some sort of explanation.

Fortunately, to help add complexity to the bingo game, there is a standardized riddle for each picture which, if unraveled, contains a clue to the meaning. Sometimes, as with 7 La Escalera (the ladder), the riddle offers a didactic sort of instruction with "Climb me step by step; you don't want to hop up." But other times the riddle causes more confusion than it clears up, as with the one that goes with the wounded heart: "Don't miss me heart, for I shall return in a truck."

Thursday, January 06, 2011

big medicine

This morning I paid a visit to my local cooperative to pick up about a month's supply of what I now habitually refer to as "medicine" rather than "weed" or "pot" or "dope." And after 30-plus years of hit-and-miss, very unreliable purchases arranged through friends or improvised on the streets, it's a pleasure to finally be conducting this particular transaction in a civilized manner.

The co-op is in an unremarkable building with a permanent address. Inside, the "patient" is shown into a room where a wide variety of "medication" is attractively displayed in its dried and cured form, or packaged as "edibles." A staff member is there to answer your questions and take your "donation."

I'm one of a select but growing number of Washingtonians able to use this service because I've been recognized by the state as a legitimate user, due to my having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Other conditions meriting legal relief through the use of this particular drug include Crohn's Disease and the sort of chronic pain arising from injuries to or dysfunctions of the spine. Similar accommodations for similar reasons have been implemented in California and several other states.

And the bottom line is it works for me. Inhaling the vapors of the cannabis plant relieves my tremors and the nervous anxiety that accompanies them. Still, I think it's insane that in a country where alcohol is legally purchasable by any adult, including those with histories of extreme alcohol abuse, and highly poisonous cigarettes are universally available, that everyone over age of 18 is still, to this day, not extended the option of using this gentle and therapeutic plant if he or she chooses to do so.

The loss of tax revenue alone makes such obstinacy highly irrational from a practical point of view, and leads me to believe that entrenched powers such as the Drug Enforcement Administration must have enormous resources invested in maintaining the repressive status quo.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

dead bird

In response to the Republicans' takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, thousands of red-wing blackbirds and starlings died in flight and fell from the sky in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana, starting during the New Year's weekend and continuing till today.

They were joined by about 100,000 dead fish who washed up on the shores of the Arkansas River.

These poor, innocent creatures died from shock upon hearing the news that Fred Upton, R-Michigan, has been selected to chair the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which also oversees environmental matters.

Upton kicked off his tenure in the new position by groveling obsequiously before his energy-industry masters and delivering a speech in which he attacked the Environmental Protection Agency's plans to begin regulating greenhouse gases.

"(T)his administration's 'none of the above' energy policy will do nothing but cost jobs, make energy more expensive, and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy," the servile tool of the oil companies and big electricity producers whined with a whine, adding that "Today's announcement marks a crescendo in the EPA's long regulatory assault against America's energy producers."

Hearing this anti-environmental tirade from a highly-placed governmental official tasked with overseeing environmental matters proved too much for the fragile hearts of the poor little red-winged blackbirds, who expired immediately by the thousands and fell dead onto the cold ground below.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

just one more

As the late holiday season recedes into the distance behind us and the blaze of bright sunshine which accompanied the new year gives way to the usual drizzle and gray skies, I can't let 2010 slip away without looking back with one more retrospective of that recently departed, angst-filled year, brought to us by the satirist-animators at Jib-Jib.

Jib-Jab first came on the scene in 2004 with their brilliant ridicule of the Bush vs. Kerry campaign, in which they gleefully poked fun at the appearance and pronouncements of both candidates with truly bipartisan enthusiasm. That three-minute cartoon generated enough buzz to be shown in its entirety on a segment of NBC Nightly News.

Now Jib-Jab has done it again, with a review of the trials and tribulations of President Obama and his loose-lipped VP, Joe Biden, over the past twelve months. It's devastatingly on-target without being the least bit malicious, and I love the puppet depiction of Rahm Emanuel, who makes what might be called a cameo appearance. Biden's tap dancing at the end is also a thing of beauty.

It's on YouTube; go watch.

Monday, January 03, 2011

a wondrous unicorn

We're experiencing economic recovery, right? Depends on who you talk to.

I think everyone is aware right now that America has two economies, not one: one for the haves, and one for the have-nots.

So while the Dow Jones Average climbs steadily toward 1200 and the price of crude oil creeps up above its "new normal" price of $90 a barrel, generating mega-profits for the mega-rich, nearly one American in three is having trouble scratching up enough money to put food on the table,

The latest national poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds that:

*Nearly half of Americans -- 48 percent -- say it is difficult to afford their home heating and/or electric bills;

*29 Percent report difficulty with being able to afford food.

I didn't see a figure in this report for how many people are having difficulty putting gas in the car, but I would guess it's comparable to the number that are having trouble coming up with the monthly heating bill.

Significantly, the government's half-baked inflation figures, which are calculated to arrive at "core inflation," don't include food and fuel -- the two things besides housing that people can't do without. Is this because food and fuel prices are "too volatile," as the statisticians say, or are they omitted because including them would give us a clearer picture of the real world, of what's actually happening to us?

There is barely a hint of reporting in the national media about the kinds of difficulties ordinary people suffer in trying to keep their lives on track. When we read the newspapers or watch to cable news on TV, we get the impression that the national deficit is the only dangerous economic problem. Yet the Pew poll just cited tells us that 47 percent of Americans think that unemployment is the worst economic problem we're facing, while only 19 percent say the deficit is our major worry.

And despite all the propaganda to the contrary, only 17 percent of us think there really is an actual recovery. That's good news because it shows most of us are no longer fooled by the happy chatter of CNN and CNBC. Recovery may be happening on Wall Street and other financial districts, but for those of us on Main Street recovery is a unicorn.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

owl and pussycat

A pome by Edward Lear

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

7 billion

Expect 2011 to be a year of significant and memorable milestones, not the least of which is the world's human population will exceed seven billion before the end of the year.

National Geographic has posted an excellent, short video which discusses the implications of this unimaginable number. Click here.

Consider: the world's human population did not reach one billion until about 1830, fewer than 200 years ago. The good news is our numbers are growing more slowly than they were just a few years back. The bad news is that there are still way too many of us for humans to live harmoniously with the planet's other species, both fauna and flora.