Monday, April 11, 2011

Notes From Harper's

Here are a few interesting tidbits from Harper’s Magazine, March 2011:

“Estimated percentage change since 2000 in the U.S. defense budget, not including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: +80.”

Can you imagine what our education system would be like if the budget for schools increased eighty percent in ten years? Even though the statistic above does not include the wars, what if we added it all together? What would American education be like if we spent, over the last ten years, the equivalent of what we have spent on defense and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Libya no-fly zone?

And if the government had shut down last week, who were the people whose paychecks would be immediately delayed? Our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shouldn’t there be some kind of clause in the budget that says no matter what, our men and women in uniform still get paid? I mean they are dodging bullets for this country.

Moving on:

“Number of American civilians who died worldwide in terrorist attacks last year: 8. Minimum number who died after being struck by lightening: 29.”

Seems like we need a war on lightening. I wonder if George W. Bush would come out of retirement and help us hunt down the evildoers who used this lightening on our citizens. I think they’re called clouds. Go get ‘em, George.

“Date on which student loans first passed credit cards among the largest sources of private debt in the United States: 6/30/10.”

More people now owe a greater debt on student loans than their credit cards. Yes, it is getting harder and harder to finance education in this country. But that’s okay. No one wants a smart populace questioning the wisdom of Boehner and company. The Tea Party does not want America to discover they are a confederacy of dunces. Stupid people stay quiet, or so our fearless leaders hope.

The back of the magazine has an interesting feature that I enjoy called “Findings.” It is a collection of facts and data from around the world. It seems 2011 has already been a bad year for birds. Given their mythological and cinematic (at least to Hitchcock) importance, maybe we should take note:

“…flipper-banding was correlated with king-penguin deaths. Columbian officials seized a narco-pigeon, and Saudi Arabia detained a vulture affiliated with Tel Aviv University. Police in Pforzheim, Germany, detained an owl who was drunk on schnapps. Dozens of Romanian starlings drank themselves to death. One thousand Italian turtle doves fell from the sky with blue-stained beaks; 500 starlings and red-winged blackbirds were found dead on a road in Point Coupee Parish, Louisiana; and 4,500 Arkansan blackbirds were thought to have been killed by fireworks.”

Something is definitely wrong with the world. When owls and starlings drink themselves into oblivion, can the end of days be far behind?

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