Friday, August 22, 2014

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Imagine if ITN or The Guardian were to write an article, "Why is Alabama breeding so many racists?" and you'll understand why this is just a stupid article for NBC to publish. Bad form, chaps. Bad form.
2) So far, I've ducked this whole ice bucket challenge thing, but here's my idea: I'm going to write a check on camera to the ALS charity of my choice, then issue my challenge to three people to post check-writing videos. While ALS is a worthy cause (my dad was diagnosed with it along with about a million other conditions before he finally died of what they called "multi system atrophy," which essentially means "We don't know what the fuck he had but it was serious!") it's sucking the air out of the charitable universe and really, and for a genetic disorder that might affect as few as 30,000 Americans. I'd rather see this kind of effort made for breast cancer or gun control.
In fact, come to think of it, I'll write my check to the Brady folks.
3) The reason Ferguson has such a powerful hold over our attention span boils down to this: Ferguson is a micro-laboratory representative of what is happening nationwide, I think. Despite a significant minority population, blacks and Hispanics don't have a real say in anything that governs them. For a nation built upon "No taxation without representation," this sticks mightily in our craw.
4) On that note:


5) Damn. I picked Florida as the "Last State Standing"...
6) Now, you might think this is good news for global warming but in fact, it's terrible news. At the bottom of the Atlantic lies a layer of ice with vast quantities of methane trapped within. That warms up, the methane bubbles up and it's goodbye Greenland!
7) Reefs talk to fish? Who knew!
8) It's not just legal weed that has the West getting higher.
9) Florida, ladies and gentlemen.
10) Oh my.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Disconnect

According to a study released Monday by Feeding America, 1 in 7 households in the United States now rely on food banks.
Ridge is typical of millions of Americans who rely on food banks to survive: She is in poor health and lives on disability payments as she undergoes chemotherapy treatments for ovarian cancer. But as a nationwide study released Monday by the nonprofit group Feeding America makes clear, the number of people who rely on food pantries, soup kitchens, school lunch programs, senior citizens' Meals on Wheels deliveries, or other food initiatives to supplement their daily diet is a complex and growing mosaic that cuts across the nation's demographic lines. 
About one in seven Americans—more than 46 million people—rely on such programs to get by, according to the study, which involved confidential surveys of more than 60,000 recipients of food aid from groups affiliated with Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks that distribute donated food to programs in all 50 states. 
The ranks of the hungry include 12 million children and 7 million seniors, plus millions more among the working poor, military families, the unemployed, and young college graduates. Those in each group said their reliance on food aid stemmed from a daily struggle to put healthy and nutritious food on the table when all that many can afford is inexpensive processed food that fuels a cycle of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
14% of Americans. 40% of those the most vulnerable citizens in the country: the young and the elderly. And mind you, these are food banks, which people rely on to fill in the gaps in their public assistance. Here's a mind-boggling statistic: 86% of people on "food stamps" exhaust their monthly stipend within the first three weeks of the month.

Eighty. Six. Percent. So we're not talking about an abuse problem. We're talking about a starvation problem. In America. In the 21st Century.

We're talking about people dropping dead in the streets and on the roads of America. We're talking about a hidden Great Depression that the media has managed to avoid really covering because the stock market is doing so well.

We're talking about working class people, mostly employed, trying to get by and eat enough so they don't lose their jobs to health issues.

In 2008, in response to an alarming rise of 24% in people who were suffering the euphemistic "food insecurity," Congress passed emergency legislation to supplement the food assistance programs.

Last year, Republicans repealed that act of "kindness". This year, 46 million people are starving.

Conservatives suck.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Greetings from Bonaire!

Sorry for the silence lately, but these little fellows have been keeping me busy.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Today, I Am the Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth

No, I’m not dying…well, not yet. A series of events have conflued and I am able to take an extended sabbatical from all forms of wage-earning to pursue some things in my personal and artistic life. I anticipate at least a month off, but more likely, I will be off work until the end of the year.

It’s a beautiful opportunity to write, shoot photos, dive and vacation, and release some of the stress that working some 40 years (since sophomore year of college) has built into my body. Mostly, I get to clean up the rat hole I live in and ride my bike to boot.

I’m excited and terrified, at the same moment. This is now on me. I don’t have a boss to complain about – the Bag of Salted Rat Dicks was fired, altho his tenure will outlast mine, but only by dint of some legal wrangling on his part – and while I don’t have a routine, I have to put one into place until I’m comfortable being busy doin’ nothin’, as the old Beach Boys tune put it.

As events have unfolded over the past four months, it seems more and more likely that I picked the perfect opportunity to walk out, because my suspicion is I would eventually have been carried out on my shield.

I paid attention, and the world told me what to do, is the message.

I’ll still be blogging, perhaps even more frequently and at more places. One cannot tell these things in advance. My first adventure awaits in two weeks, and then the looking glass is entered upon my return.

Wish me luck, gang!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Russia Will Only Get Worse. Maybe.

Putin is on the horns of a dilemna. For the first time since the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Russia faces a severe economic crisis – after enjoying years of relative prosperity – and she has a warmongering chief executive. This is a nexus of events that will shape and define Russia for at least the next decade.

Today, it just got worse:

LONDON — An international tribunal in The Hague has awarded the shareholders of the now-defunct Yukos oil company about $50 billion, in ruling on claims that the Russian government illegally seized the company from one of the country’s most powerful oligarchs.

“We are thrilled with this decision, although we know it is not the end of the road,” said Tim Osborne, director of GML, the holding company created by the Yukos founder Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky.

[…] The verdict could increase pressure on Russia at a time when its economy is already under threat after the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on a selection of Russian individuals and companies over its support for separatists in Ukraine.

There could also be implications for Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian oil company that acquired the most important Yukos oil assets in 2007, and for the British oil giant BP, which owns close to 20 percent of Rosneft.

Now, of course, Putin is free to ignore The Hague ruling and it’s business as usual. Except Russia’s credit rating will be at risk. And it gives the West leverage over Putin and Russia at a time when he can afford neither.

You’ll notice that, while Putin pardoned Khodorovsky, there was no attempt made to restore the company to private control.

And Rosneft itself, while reporting higher earnings, has seen its oil production start to slip. There’s not $50 billion in cash reserves, I’m sure.

Politically, what does this mean? It could mean that Putin will turn his gimlet eye towards former Soviet states that produce oil and gas, and invasion and insurrections the kind that we’ve seen in Ukraine.

This would include, presumably, Uzbekistan (which has the 11th largest natural gas reserves in the world), Turkmenistan (the world’s second largest gas fields), and even Estonia, which while it doesn’t have significant energy reserves per se, does have large shale deposits, which could mean fracking, in which case, Estonia is fracked.

Conversely, if Putin is approached by cooler heads – you know, like the guy in the Oval Office – and delicately offered a way out of the problem, then the Ukraine situation itself might be resolved quietly and more important, quickly.