There was, last week, a story which was treated with all the solemnity one would associate with a reprise of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago when Al Capone ran things there. This story, however, involved a study which has documented the "mass killings" being perpetrated by marauding felines in the United States. The "perps" include both house cats and strays. It seems that the tabbies are held responsible for the untimely deaths, each year, of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals (squirrels, shrews, moles, chipmunks and the like). As an aside, it seems to me that these data on the difference between the number of bird and mammal deaths also prove that birds are the more agile of the two groups. That may be something the "study" missed. At any rate, what struck me about the story was the headline which branded the cats "MURDERERS"! Come on, guys---really? Murderers? They're CATS for crying out loud. They share the gene pool of lions and leopards. Are we surprised that they stalk, they crouch, and they pounce on anything that moves? But "Murder" implies malice aforethought---this is the domaine of Hannibal Lecter, but not of Fluffy!
Then, in the most recent edition of "The Week", I was treated to the results of yet another study. This one was by Brown University. It studied motorcycle accidents and, since I ride a Harley, it was of more than passing interest to me. The first earth shaking conclusion that the researchers came to was that bikers of age 60 or older are three times more likely to be hospitalized after a crash than younger riders. NO KIDDING---they're old guys!!! The scientists also found that riders between the ages of 20 and 39 had 14 times the number of accidents that the older riders did but that the old guys were more likely to be seriously hurt . Another blinding flash of the obvious that would NEVER have ocurred to me (wink, wink)! I know that the young guys speed and take chances and, like I said before, the old guys are old---so they break easy!!! I can't believe that someone actually spent money and took up the time of some smart people to reach conclusions which could have been obtained for the price of a Coors Silver Bullet at any biker bar in the country. We, who ride, have a saying. It goes: "There are old bikers and there are bold bikers, but there are no old, bold bikers." You don't need a study to learn that!
Another story prominent in the news this week is the infamous SEQUESTRATION which will trigger automatic spending cuts in the Federal budget. Even though this plan was previously agreed by both sides (the GOP members of Congress and Administration) to take effect if they could not come to agreement on curbing spending, the Obama White House and Administration officials are out and about with dire predictions of impending disaster. These include a speech I heard yesterday given by Homeland Security Chief, Janet Napolitano in which she decried the fact that, because of sequestration, the US Coast Guard presence in the Arctic Region would have to be reduced by 1/3. She did not say what the US Coast Guard is doing in the Arctic in the first place, since we have no coastline there!
The media too have been quick to tell the tales of the doom and gloom which are about to befall us. ABC News, for example published a list of the "57 Terrible Consequences of Sequester". Now, you may call me a cynic, but when I read in this piece that the sequester would cause 1,928 fewer small business loans to be granted, I wondered if I was being told the whole story and what that number means in the greater scheme of things. So I checked. It turns out that in the 2010-2011 business year (the most recent for which data are available), a total of 8.1 MILLION small business loans were made. Given that the total number of SBA loans given is, in a normal year, in excess of 8 million, then roughly two thousand fewer loans seems a paltry number to get in a twist about. Similarly, the ABC paper also cites the danger in increased risk of wildfires due to the Forest Service being able to treat 200,000 fewer acres of forest land for potential fuel for the fires. Again, in the context of the bigger picture, if you count only National Forests they cover 193 Million acres. Thus the 200,000 acres represent .001 percent of the total National Forest land! Give me a break!
So much for "hard news". Now for the trivial, pop culture stuff.
To wit: Another event which captured people's attention this week was the annual Academy Awards Gala. I will offer no comment other than to say that Kristen Chenoweth, the "Red Carpet Show" hostess (or do i have to say "Host" or "Host Person" in order to be politically correct?) is the owner of the most irritating speaking voice since Fran Dresher first assailed our collective eardrums. But in watching, "The Oscars", I was also exposed to TV commercials and one for Time Warner Cable (TWC) struck me. It features a slightly overweight and youngish blond woman who is gushing about all the benefits of TWC services to her family life. She talks in terms of everyone being together as never before, but after a while you realize that while the family is apparently in the same room, they are all absorbed using their different digital devices! They are NOT having family time in the classic sense. Rather, as individuals, they are texting, tweeting, watching, listening and playing computer games. No family interaction at all! Then comes my favorite part where Ms. Dumpling informs us, very seriously, that with Time Warner Cable you get your instant gratification right away! That really is disappointing to me because I always want my "instant gratification" to be delayed at least two weeks.
Whenever I'm exposed to an ad like this one I always wonder what "genius" writes this kind of copy? There is no cure for stupid.