fires, forest fires

This picture is Polk County, Iowa,

It’s 755 square miles. 

If you were in Iowa, this is how much land might be on fire,

If you’re in Siberia, this area is on fire. 

Siberia’s 1,826 forest fires have burned about 755 square miles.  

And across eleven western states, nearly 2,000,000 acres have recently burned. That’s about 3000 square miles.

How big is that? Nearly the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined; four counties in Iowa. 

In 2009, we protected wilderness lands across the country adding up to more than 3,000 square miles. There’s 3,125 square miles allocated for possible oil shale development in just three states.

read this twice

Lawrence Lessig:

A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.

These few don’t exercise their power directly. None can simply buy a congressman, or dictate the results they want. But because they are the source of the funds that fuel elections, their influence operates as a filter on which policies are likely to survive. It is as if America ran two elections every cycle, one a money election and one a voting election. To get to the second, you need to win the first. But to win the first, you must keep that tiniest fraction of the one percent happy. Just a couple thousand of them banding together is enough to assure that any reform gets stopped.

Some call this plutocracy. Some call it a corrupted aristocracy.

as a child of the Enlightenment shouldn’t

Vaclav Havel via his 1978 essay called The Power of the Powerless. [pdf here]

Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world.

It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them….

…it enables people to deceive their conscience and conceal their true position and their inglorious modus vivendi, both from the world and from themselves….

 

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” –Preface to Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman (1855)

the stock market means nothing

“It’s almost worth the Great Depression to learn how little our big men know.” —Will Rogers

The bottom line is that there can be no rational expectation that things will get better.

…the mini-booms we’ve seen each year for the last 3 years were ephemeral, lasting only a few months. There is nothing mysterious about this in so far as these episodes were necessarily mirages.

These brief outbursts of hope did not rest upon a foundation of fundamental economic health.

Volatility is an expected outcome in an environment in which central banks alternately do and do not bankroll the stock market, which itself is an emotional non-indicator of our economic health.

In short, movements in the stock market mean nothing.

the mundane is blown away by awe

thought diffusion… Folks say this 2 minutes is worth the click-through. Well? 

It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs. —Vaclav Havel

Wherever my travels may lead, paradise is where I am. —Voltaire

Dance until you shatter yourself. —Rumi

weight of the intolerable universe

I will die and, with me, the weight of the intolerable universe.
I shall erase the pyramids, the medallions, the continents and faces.
I shall erase the accumulated past.
I shall make dust of history, dust of dust.
Now I am looking on the final sunset.
I am hearing the last bird.
I leave nothingness to no one. —Jorge Luis Borges

stuff your eyes with wonder, he said

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that, he said, shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass. —Ray Bradbury

war is not natural

The drumbeat of fear has begun about potential defense cutbacks.

“America spends more on defense than the next 14 or 19 nations, depending on methodology, and is the world’s largest arms dealer. It is winding down two wars that lasted longer than American involvement in World War II and in both Iraq and Afghanistan the results are disappointing, to put an optimistic spin on it. The money to wage these wars was largely borrowed from Red China, which our defense establishment is now teeing up as the next ‘enemy’.

“The real lesson of these scary reports is that the American economy is far too dependent on military Keynesianism.

“In the past, when wars ended the economy shifted back to a peacetime footing. Sometimes that did cause recessions on the way to more productive growth (a peacetime economy produces more healthy returns than blowing things up). Now we’re being told that’s impossible.

“That sound you hear is Dwight Eisenhower spinning in his grave.”

 

you will care about you

Love after Love, by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.