thinking about the world differently . . .
December 12th, 2013

The Gap

I have written a lot about economic inequality. (Some say the adequate word is “ranted”.)

Another visualization of the widening gap and the enormity of the problem was published in Quartz today in an article titled “How many months it takes an average worker to earn what the CEO makes in an hour” by Ritchie King and Roberto A. Ferdman.

You should really go and read the article, but here are some teasers: McDonald’s 6 months and 4 weeks, Target 4 months and 4 weeks, Walmart 4 months and 3 weeks.

From the article:

The disparity is alarming. CEOs of American companies now earn some 270 times what the average worker makes.

(Emphasis is mine!)

Why is this a problem? in part, the answer is that the rise in CEOs pay has outpaced the rise in the workers pay by huge margins. This means that eventually – sooner than later – workers will not be willoing to work for the pay offered because it is too low – and it makes no sense to starve while working your arse off. The disparity is the gun powder accumulating to explode in social disorder and the collapse of the society we are used to living in.

From an economics perspective, this is utterly unsustainable in any case.

What can be done? LOTS! First of all inform yourself, then vote with your dollars – do not buy in places which are abusers of workers – the likelihood is that you too are in the class of “workers” and perhaps now you do not feel this gap, but just hang in – corporate greed and the greed of the 1%ters knows no bound apparently. So hit back with what you can – do not give them your dollars to the best of your ability.

I know, you say your “contributions” are meaningless. Not so! EVERY dollar counts, that is true for the 1%ters and that is even more true for you. If you and millions of others make a tiny “contribution” to the impoverishing of the 1%ters and the huge corporations, they WILL feel the pinch.

July 26th, 2013

The Common Ingredient

What do jet fuel, electrical transformers and breakfast cereal have in common?

BHT.

BHT is short for butylated hydroxytoluene and it is an organic compound that is used as an antioxidant additive in jet fuels, electrical transformer oil, and breakfast cereal.

Found this list of 25 Craziest Food Additives on a website listing all sorts of “List of of 25” items, many quite astonishing!

May 13th, 2013

This Is What Poverty Really Means…

Most of us have a vague and fuzzy sense of what it means to be poor. It is a fuzzy notion because few of us have really experienced true poverty as millions of people experience day after day after grinding day.

Here is a poem that will give you a bit of a taste of how debilitating poverty really is:

I AM

My clothes will have to do cause I am poor
My hair will have to grow cause I am poor
My hand will keep filling out public assistance cause I am poor
My mind will pray for one less period cause I am poor
My mouth will be polite to my indignant boss cause I am poor
My heart will allow violent relationships cause I am poor
My teeth will slowly ache away cause I am poor
My paycheck will fade away more cause I am poor
My voice will fade away more cause I am poor
My feet will stand in line for food cause I am poor
My eyes will fade from no glasses cause I am poor
My body will deteriorate further cause I am poor
My ears will hear you walk by cause I am poor
My life will be less than yours cause I am poor
Cause I am poor
I am poor
I am

Lauren White, Member of the Community of the BeLoved

This poem was published in Mary’s Pence Spring/Summer 2013 Newsletter. The Community of the BeLoved is a grantee of Mary’s Pence, and you can read about them here.

You can learn more about Mary’s Pence here. In fact, please do – you will find ways to fight poverty in a sustainable and lasting way with no loss of dignity.

[Poem reprinted by permission of Mary’s Pence and the Community of the BeLoved.]
January 2nd, 2013

Representing the People? Pshaw… [updated]

After the vote on the “fiscal cliff” (another con job on the People, we’ll deal with it later…) The House went home! There are thousands and thousands of people barely getting by on a daily basis in areas affected and devastated by Hurricane Sandy. They need federal assistance. That assistance is a decision that the House of Representatives need to take. But nope! These alleged “representatives” took themselves home. When the banks were in jeopardy and needed money to continue fleecing everyone, these same people stayed over time, stayed in the capital city stayed “on duty”! No one’s life was in jeopardy, just the wealth of the 1% – remember this…

Now we are told the financial assistance legislation will have to wait until these royalty deem the suffering of these people necessary to deal with. How disgusting. (I include in my disgust Democrats as well as Republicans! Selfish creatures all!)

I say, KICK THOSE BASTARDS OUT OF OFFICE NOW! They should be ashamed of themselves! 

The people of this country should have ZERO tolerance of these bastards. The gall…

[Update: It seems that I actually have a heavy-weight GOP agreeing with me – Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor. (Apologies for the light-weight pun…) Gov. Christie announced: 

“There is only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Wednesday. “The House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.”  (Washington Post Report)

What a rare occasion!]

December 29th, 2012

Year End Crunch

What a crunch for year end… My own version of “fiscal cliff” 😀

Here is how:

Slice a bagel in two. If you can find a bagel with a fairly closed middle hole, use it.

Remove the bread material from the bagel halves to create a bowl-like “cavity”.

Knead the breading to make a plug to close the hole in one of the halves.

Place both halves cut side up on a cookie sheet with some foil and bake in a 300F oven for 3 minutes.

Spread one teaspoon of shredded mozzarella on each bagel, and return to the oven foespecially try to melt the cheese around the plug. Let it toast/bake another 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Place bagels on a work surface for assembly.

Now you have two toasted “bowls” and one is more like a bowl.

Crack an egg into the bagel bowl. I like to spice the egg with za’atar, some pimenton (smokey paprika), oregano and rosemary. Just a pinch or so.

Place the bagel bowl on the cookie sheet and back into the oven, at 350F for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, assemble the other half bagel: some rosemary and oregon at the bottom. A layer of thinly sliced tomato, a pinch of parmesan, a layer of thinly sliced celery, a layer of jalapeno thinly sliced, another layer of tomato slices. Top with thinly sliced swiss cheese.

If you prep these ingredients in advance, the assembly will take 5-8 minutes. Add the assmbled bagel to the cookie sheet. Continue baking for about 2-5 mins.

Depending on how you like your egg: runny will be about 12 minutes, more solid will take 15 minutes total time.

Since the egg already baked 5-8 minutes, you can add more time to finish off the whole thing to a glorious nice breakfast.

Bagel with CRUNCH for a festive Yearend Breakfast

Bagel with CRUNCH for a festive Yearend Breakfast

Oh yeah, the CRUNCH: provided by toasting the bagels first and also by the celery.

Enjoy. But: don’t forget to think of the people who cannot enjoy such a sunmptuous meal, or any meal on that day! Give thanks to those who work hard to bring the ingredients to your kitchen. Try to think for a short time about the systemic causes for hunger and poverty.

December 28th, 2012

One that flew under the radar

2012 was a year filled with news items and events that made the news. I doubt it was a more momentous year that other years are, but in retrospect there were events in it that might prove to be somewhat pivotal in a historical sense. For example, the US Election results may turn out to be the wake up call for political activists – the playing field has changed radically, and the changes are beginning to manifest in the voting patterns, and reflecting the changing political musculature of the new demographics in the USA.

In my favorite technology field, very significant computer power seems to have been imbued in tablets. This may turn into real revolution in our relationships with computing-on-the-go, or simply fade like many other fads and be relegated to the status of landfill fillers. We’ll see how this develops in the next 2-3 years, but just remember – you lived through 2012, the year that started the Tablet Revolution or Devolution, whichever.

Earlier today, DW gave me this cryptic missive: “There is a study that shows that consuming red meat will shorten your life.” I love bacon, but have not had any in oooh, 4-5 weeks? My red meat consumption is maybe 1/2 oz. PER WEEK… So I did not rush out to review the latest revision of my will and last testament. Intrigued, I followed up and found the source of DW’s missive: a Yahoo Health review of the health stories of 2012.

As a piece of new, this one falls so flat on its face that it elicits nothing but pity. “There is a study” was as close as they came to identify the study! No date, not source, no organization, nothing. This was a piece not worthy of slaying of ANY electrons!

Mercifully,, they did have some information (amazingly…) and with the help of our ever-present and quintessential Google search (no, I won’t go to Microsoft Bing, I still have too many bad memories of that nasty, evil company Microsoft!) I entered the few salient facts in the Yahoo articleas this search: 100,000 people in the study, over 28 years, red meat consumption.

And voilà! The first item was this: Harvard School of Public Health press release from March 12, 2012 [here]: Red Meat Consumption Linked to Increased Risk of Total, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality.

The study was published online in Archives of Internal Medicine on March 12, 2012.

Indeed, more red meat and processed red meat shortens your life. Mortality rises in total numbers, due to cardiovascular diseases, and due to cancer occurrence.

You can read the Press Reease and the study yourself. It is very fascinating. I recommend it.

But I write this because it is an example of how things fly under the radar! This should have been HUGE NEWS, but it was not. The changes that the conservative political machine is perpetrating on US citizens should be HUGE NEWS, but they mostly are not.

Why?

June 9th, 2012

Hello, and Thanks for All the Fish

Douglas Adams’ fourth book in the trilogy Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is called So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. (I am aware of the numerical transgression, as was Douglas Adams.) I was inspired by the title, as well as the video below.

The video is by a chef who had a revalation and awakening when he discovered Veta La Palma and their fish. Veta La Palma (see here) is a fish farm in Southern Spain. It is a successful experiment in working with Nature to produce the bounty provided by natural processes. It is an agricultural farm which produces no waste – on the contrary, it cleanses the water of the river that creates its estuary; it uses no feed to fatten up the fish – and they taste great; it measures its success by the good health of its predatory birds (flamingos) and in fact has become the largest private bird sanctuary in Europe. 20% of its fish are eaten by the (healthy) predatory birds. Still – it produces 1200 tons of fish every year.

The take-away lesson: Intensive agriculture which measures production per acre only is not necessarily the right answer. Such agriculture has many hidden costs: depletion of water tables, waste and in some cases toxic waste, methodical destruction of related natural resources, and much more.

Of course, corporate agribusiness will not discuss any of these costs – they do not pay for them, so the incentive is diminished if not evaporates.

Mr. Barber also touches upon interesting points that have been repeated many times before in many other places by other people: Hunger in the world today is not a matter of lack of production. There is plenty of food produced. World hunger is by far an issue of unfair and ultimately unsustainable distribution.

Sending more food containers to communities that experience hunger will help stave off the immediate problem, but it will not solve the underlying systemic problems. In many cases, as in Central America, food shipments causes even more damage by lowering the price of available food to such a degree that local farmers are priced out of the market and cannot remain farmers, and in many cases join the ranks of hungry, sometime even migrate north to the USA looking for work and food! This is not to say that we should ignore the immediate problems. That does mean to say that just throwing food shipments on this is actually more damaging, and much more care and attention must be paid to solve the underlying, system-wide problems. Of course, this is not so glorious, and hard to brag about in the church on Sunday: “I helped solve a systemic problem in Africa today!” sounds so bla by comparison to “I helped ship 5 tons of food to Africa today!”

March 23rd, 2011

Poverty is a Luxury we canNOT afford

Here is something for you to read! A brilliant writer and thinker wrote this blog.

December 31st, 2010

Foreclosure-Gate in Africa

The NY Times published on December 22 2010 an article exposing the shameful practice of governments in Africa which sell arable agricultural land to investors, sometimes for pittance. The practice displaces native farmers who have been working and living off the land for generations and consider the land their home. It is also their livelihood. The (lame) excuse is that developing the lands by ab-business will provide jobs for the displaced farmers, housing, money, and increased food production for a growing population.

So far, farmers fail to see any of the benefits and the food production will not begin to show up for several more years. Neither is it clear that the ag-business will actually grow crops used by locals nor is it clear that the crops will be sold locally.

At this point, it seems that this is simply another landgrab by wealthy investors buying resources whose scarcity is growing.

November 21st, 2007

Over the top!

Over the Top, Chapter 1:

The Chicago Tribune reported November 8, 2007, that Serendipity 3, a New York City restaurant offers the most expensive dessert. At $25,000, the Frrrozen Haute Chocolate takes the cake (forgive the pun!) and is indeed recognized as the most expensive dessert by the Guinness World Records.

The dessert is a a mix of cocoa powders from 14 countries, milk, and 5 grams of 24 carat edible gold shavings. Yeah, whipped cream comes with it too, as some shavings from La Mademeine au Truffle. The whole concoction is served in a dish, nay a goblet, with a gold band embedded with 1 carat of diamonds and a spoon made of gold. If you can gather together some friends, everyone who orders this ostentatious monstrosity of overconsumption can take the spoon home.

Over the Top – and Spilling, Chapter 2:

The Chicago Sun-Times report on November 16, 2007, that the same restaurant closed its doors because it failed health inspection. It appears that a health inspector spotted a live mouse, fruit flies, house flies and more than 100 live cockroaches. What were the critters chewing on – the gold shavings? Sheesh! 🙁

Later reports also say that the restaurant is working with the health department to reopen the establishment (of course, at the prices of dessert, it is a great incentive!) and remedy the conditions.

For your Consideration, Chapter 3:

In the mail today arrived a letter from a local Mission that feeds the hungry. They ask for $1.88. That, according to them, feeds one hungry and homeless person, a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Anyone with a wallet wide enough to contain $25,000 (or an equally endowed credit card limit) may wish to do the math. Ok, I’ll make it easy for that person: At $1.88  per meal, 13,297 meals would equal ONE gobbled dessert. Imagine the depth of this injustice!

Related Link:

Barbara Ehrenreich writes at Alternet.com on November 21, 2007 in an article titled: “America’s Rich Citizens Can’t Escape Our Poor Public Infrastructure”.

November 13th, 2007

Sad and Disturbing

“The trouble with being poor is that it takes up all of your time.”

This quote is attributed to Willen De Kooning (April 24, 1904 – March 19, 1997) who was an abstract expressionist painter, born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and who lived mostly in the USA.

He was quite poor in 1940s and was using black and white enamel colors for his art, and so perhaps the quote is indeed by him.

If you think about it, De Kooning was really spot on! Transportation takes that much longer. Poor people may have to work at more than one job and that takes more time. Many times they work at lower-wage jobs and that means more hours spent at a job (or two, or more!) just to make enough money to make ends meet. Housing costs may determine where they live and that may be further away from their workplaces and so more time spent in the commute, and in errands.

This is in the good cases! In more severe poverty situations, just finding food can consume a lot of time. Ask displaced persons in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America. Ask, if you can, Mr. Adonis Musati from Zimbabwe, who died of hunger right on the street just waiting to get a work permit in Cape Town, South Africa!

What is the world community going to do about hunger?

We are all vulnerable and near death as long as even one person in the world is vulnerable and near death. If one can be brought to such dire state as Mr. Adonis Musati from Zimbabwe, so can each and every one of us be brought to the same state.

Relevant Links:

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