Thursday, August 18, 2011

odds and ends of news

And in the news ....

-- Why do I find it somehow depressing that the pope should speak out about the economic crisis and encourage one and all to remember that it's people, not vast accumulations of wealth, that count? I have espoused similar positions, but somehow, when the pope expresses the view, all it says to me is that the economic crisis is probably far worse than it is already depicted. The pope, as master of the smallest (and one of the most well-off) country in the world, walks a tightrope between 'spiritual' and political realms ... retreating (a bit like Israel) from one to the other as circumstances demand. He is not purely a power broker and not purely a spiritual leader. When he dons the mantle of the latter as a means of informing or nudging the former ... well, it feels somehow like the antics of an energetic, but largely inconsequential, cheer leader. I guess I shouldn't be ungrateful for any voice or effort, but I feel the defeat more keenly in the face of his suggestions of victory.

-- On the bright side -- assuming anyone is inclined -- there is a mild uptick in the number of small, bricks-and-mortar bookstores. Any uptick in a down-tick time is heartening, especially in the face of the Internet juggernaut that has decimated booksellers across the country. Whaddya know ... some people are reading and willing to pay for the hold-it-in-your-hands, smell-the-paper product. It may only be a pastime of the well-heeled, but it's something.

-- Back on the 'spiritual' front, the Mormons seem to be capitalizing on a new-found notoriety and have captured some top billing among Internet search engines.

Their doctrine requires Mormons to proselytize, and it would be foolish not to strategize at a time of heightened interest, church officials and supporters say.

After 40 years of dabbling in the spiritual interests, proselytizing strikes me as a seriously-dangerous and wrong-headed adventure, but for every bright penny there is a rusty nail.

-- In Peru, the government has discontinued (temporarily?) an eradication program in an area known for growing coca, the first step in the production of cocaine. Since previous efforts have not worked very well, the government is 're-evaluating.'  Anti-drug analysts are, as always, yowling at any reduction in such efforts, but I always wonder what honestly-supportive alternatives are offered to dirt-poor farmers or to governments like that in Afghanistan where 60-70 percent of the gross national product relies on what others call illegal drugs. It reminds me of the 'right to life' advocates who can caterwaul and inveigh against the horrors of abortion without ever providing a concrete and sustainable and humane alternative.

-- And in a time when real estate sales can be daunting and come-on's are necessary, an upscale ($640,000) house in Sweden is being offered complete with the skeleton of a former owner in the basement. Tours of the house are suggested as one way to mitigate the hefty price tag.


  1. Habit is a powerful force in the universe old friend. But you're retired now. The news is depressing, and we've come to a time in our life where nobody wants to hear views garnered from long and hard years of surviving and observing. The affairs of this world are no longer our concern. We may, out of habit, watch and grumble. But from a hammock, well this moment isn't so bad.

  2. You're right, of course, Charlie. That's why I try to restrict my observations to the anonymity of a blog ... a place where water may freely disappear in the sands of the Sahara.

    On the other hand, sometimes there are those who are pleased with a quick sip. Who knows?