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Miscalculation

Even though the Republicans have gone full fascist, and will lie and cheat with no reservations, we are living, miraculously, under a Democratic President again. And we are moving past the COVID pandemic, despite the bonkers efforts of the conservatives at sabotage.

Many of them, by the way, still talk about jailing or executing Anthony Fauci.

But just when I had hopes that better times are possible, Vladimir Putin, the villainous, murderous dictator, started a war.

And yet, the villain miscalculated.

Unexpectedly — to me, anyway — Ukraine is holding its own. Putin believed his forces would declare victory within days, but they couldn’t. While the Russian forces seem curiously hapless, the Ukrainian people and armed forces have shined.

Putin miscalculated so badly, in fact, that more countries than ever are united behind Ukraine, NATO, the European Union, and the US. And more are imposing sanctions on Russia.

My reaction to Putin’s War was alarm and outrage, followed by puzzlement. Why did he do it?

The world is too small today, with too many complex interconnections and alliances, to send a ground army into another country and not expect major blowback. Putin underestimated the strength of the Ukrainian forces and the resolve of Ukraine’s allies, and overestimated that of his own. But why?

I think he is becoming more aware of his own mortality. The guy is 69 years old. Time is running out to resurrect the former USSR under his glorious leadership.

It’s possible, too, that he has health issues. An illness would speed up the timetable. Or cloud his judgment.

As you would expect, he threatens nuclear destruction if his enemies go too far and force his hand. It’s a dictator thing.

Everyone hopes Putin is not insane enough to start firing off tactical nukes, but we don’t know for sure.

Everyone hopes he will find a way to declare partial victory and go home, but we see no easy way out.

In whatever manner Putin meets his end, I hope it is sudden, unpleasant, and soon.

I have been genuinely impressed by the courage and fortitude of the Ukrainian people, and especially by the example of President Zelenskyy. I haven’t been this inspired and heartened in quite some time. It’s a good feeling.

It even distracts my thoughts, albeit briefly, from this maniac.

This Just In

BRINNON, WASHINGTON — A woman was rescued uninjured, but shaken, after she dropped her cell phone into a pit toilet and fell in headfirst while trying to retrieve it.

The 40-year-old woman was using a toilet in the Olympic National Forest when her phone fell into the underground tank. She removed the toilet seat and tried to reach the phone with a dog leash.

When that failed, she secured herself with the leash and reached into the pit, but slipped and fell in. She was unable to climb out and called 911. When firefighters arrived, they handed down blocks of wood for the woman to stand on, allowing the team to reach her and pull her to safety.

The rescuers hosed off the woman, gave her clean clothes, and told her to seek medical attention because of the exposure to human waste. However, they said she “only wanted to leave” and drove away to an unspecified destination in California.

CORNVILLE, ARIZONA — A javelina that hopped into a station wagon to get a bag of Cheetos became trapped inside, trashed the interior, and caused the vehicle to roll away out of control.

Yavapai County deputies said the vehicle’s hatchback had been left open, and the closing mechanism was triggered when the javelina jumped in. In a panic to get out, the animal ripped off door panels and part of the dashboard.

It also knocked the vehicle into neutral, allowing it to roll down a driveway and across the street.

The next morning, the vehicle owners discovered what had happened and called the sheriff’s office. A deputy opened the hatch, and the javelina ran into the undergrowth.

Javelinas, also called peccaries, are a species of wild pig native to Central and South America and the southwest US. The animals live in herds of six to eight. Adults can weigh up to 80 pounds.

ZABOW, POLAND — Volunteer firefighters in Zabow twice had to remove a raccoon that was taking a nap in a precarious position atop a streetlamp.

Crews responded after the animal was spotted asleep while clinging to a horizontal section of conduit high above the ground. The electricity was disconnected, and crew members used a lift to reach the raccoon.

The animal was released on the ground, but immediately climbed back to the top of the streetlamp.

The crew removed the raccoon a second time and released it in a remote wooded area.

Digging In

Obscurity, thy name is early science fiction.

The short story below appeared in the July 1941 issue of the pulp magazine Comet. Comet debuted in December 1940, published five issues, and folded after the July 1941 issue.

As for author Edmund H. Leftwich, I found nothing about him online except that he wrote this story.

The Bell Tone” was published 80 years ago, and it shows. The structure and plot have an antiquated feel, as if written by Dickens or one of the Brontës. By the 1940s, writing style was moving on from the Victorian, but Leftwich still did it old school.

This story also reminds me of sci-fi stories written by my grandfather Bill Horne. I guess Bill was most comfortable as a traditionalist.

I would love to know how my writing style will be viewed in 80 years.

—–

The Bell Tone

By Edmund H. Leftwich
Published in Comet, July 1941

To Whom It May Concern:

In order to clear up any misunderstanding or false impressions regarding the amazing case of my beloved friend and co-worker, Professor Howard E. Edwards, I submit herewith, extracts from the professor’s notebook, which I found on the desk.

Evans Barclay, B.S. Fellow IRE.

***

Jan. 25.

Last night, in my dreams, I was a monstrous ant, and had been digging myself a burrow in the soft fresh earth. The dream was intensely real, and when I awoke, I felt as tired as if I had actually been digging. My arms ached, and I was astonished, upon examining my hands, to find them raw.

Dressing hastily, I rushed to the back yard, and there, sure enough, near the fence, was a large hole about two feet deep and three feet long. Hurriedly, I filled it in and returned to the house.

I must rest for a few days, as I feel that the intense excitement caused by my investigations, is preying too heavily upon my mind.

At this time, I feel that I should make a brief summary of my findings in respect to the ants, so that Barclay may go over these notes upon his return from his vacation.

First: The ant colony is the source of a powerful bell-like tone which is radiated continuously on two wave-lengths, .0018 meter, and .00176 meter. This tone acts as a radio-beacon, and directs the ants to the colony, no matter where they may be located.

The .0018 meter wave is used by the ants for their “clacking” conversations, by means of which they communicate with each other and the colony, receiving orders from the directing intelligence, reporting the location of food, and requesting help, when needed.

The wave .00176 meter, is used for sending thought images or pictures which may be sent with the “clacking” code, or independently. I cannot conceive a more efficient or highly specialized communications system. I must learn their secret, their methods.

***

Jan. 30.

This morning, while sitting at the receiver in a semi-doze, with the bell-tone ringing in my ears, I fell into that state known as “day-dreaming.” Little “Nippy,” my beloved fox terrier, and constant companion, rushed into the laboratory and ran up to me.

For a moment my mind went blank. My hands shot out. I grasped the dog around the throat and began to throttle him. I had risen from my chair, and the dog was nearly dead, when I slipped and fell, pulling the phone plug out of the receiver.

Instantly, my mind cleared, and words cannot express the remorse I felt at my inhuman actions. Nippy would have nothing to do with me, and crawled dejectedly from the room, a terrified look in his eyes.

I have no explanation for my actions.

***

Feb. 3.

The transmitter is ready for operation. I have constructed a pair of metal disc-electrodes which clamp tightly to my head and press upon my temples. This device will pick up the thought impulses from my brain, feed them directly into the radio-frequency amplifier, where they will be amplified, and then radiated in a tight directed beam.

My two ants were in their little enclosure under the microscope when I threw the switch to the “send” position. I pictured myself as I looked as a man, and sent the thought, “I am a man.”

Hastily, I threw the switch to the “receive” position. I looked through the microscope.

The ants were lying on their sides. Somehow, I felt that the power was too great, and had stunned them. Keeping my eye to the microscope, I again threw the switch to “send,” and cut the power to half.

“Get up, friends… get up,” I thought, as I pictured them rising. Sure enough… the ants slowly regained their feet. They looked about in apparent bewilderment. Back again, in “receive” position, I was conscious of the thought image,

“The man… he is the man. The man holds us here. He is killing us. We must kill the man.”

They gnashed their fierce-looking mandibles. I snapped back to “send” and thought.

“No… you must not kill the man. The man will not harm you… he is your friend. He will help you.”

As I watched, the ants seemed to become less excited. From the larger of the two, I received the thought,

“We are dying. The man is killing us with his strong vibrations. We must kill the man.”

Then a very powerful thought impression burst upon my brain.

It seemed to come from the colony, three feet away.

“Warning to the man. Stop your thought transmissions at once! Your vibrations are killing us. We want nothing from you. We have everything we need. You will learn nothing from us. You will stop at once!”

I threw the switch to “send.” Viewed through the microscope, the two ants were lying on their backs… dead, to all appearances.

“What if I don’t stop?” I sent the thought question, “I want to learn the secret of your communication. In return, I will teach you many things. I can’t stop now!”

I changed to receive, and the answer came back,

“If you do not stop… we will kill you!”

I turned off the apparatus, but the powerful bell tone continued to pound incessantly into my brain.

I laughed. They’d kill me… would they? Those tiny insects… what could they do? Well — let them try, but I’d get what I was after. I would not quit now, with success so near. What if my transmissions did kill a few of them? Of what importance were the lives of a few ants as compared to the advancement of the science of Communication?

***

Feb. 9.

I found myself digging again in the back yard yesterday. As before, I had been “day-dreaming,” when an overwhelming desire to go outside and feel the cool moist earth between my fingers and on my face took possession of me.

I rushed out into the back yard, and began digging feverishly… madly, until finally I fell, exhausted. Then my mind cleared and I filled in the hole.

About half the ants have died, due no doubt to the strength of my radiations. No matter how low I cut the power, they still cannot live but a short time under the force of my transmissions. They have stopped sending thought impressions entirely, and are using only their “clacking” code signals, which they seem to realize I cannot understand.

I feel that they are undertaking some sort of campaign against me. For hours they congregate, closely packed, their antennae stiffly pointed straight up. Their thought currents seem to be flowing into and merging with the bell tone, which grows stronger and more penetrating day by day.

In my back yard, there are four large ant hills, and at each hill, curiously, there is no activity except the same mass concentration of the ants. Have they, too, been affected by my radiations and joined forces with the original colony against myself?

The bell tone continues to grow stronger.

***

Feb. 11

Mrs. Winslow, the middle-aged widow, who comes to clean my house and laboratory twice a week, was here this morning.

She is short, dumpy, and inclined to be stout. As she went about her work, I noticed particularly the fat firm flesh of her neck, just below the jaw. I felt an uncontrollable desire to sink my teeth deep into that flesh, and enjoy the taste of the warm fresh blood.

I had actually risen from my chair to accomplish my desire, when the telephone rang… and my mind cleared.

***

Feb. 14.

I have decided to stop my experiments with the ants.

As they refuse to send any more thought impressions, there is nothing further I can learn from them. Somehow, I feel that they are gaining a hold upon my mind, and that every time I listen in on the receiver, that hold becomes stronger. I firmly believe that I would have attacked poor Mrs. Winslow, had not the ringing of the ‘phone so opportunely interrupted me. I have sent word for her to stay away… as I cannot trust myself.

I keep a box of fresh earth on the table in my laboratory. I often run my hands through it, and taste it. It is remarkable how much this soothes my nerves.

***

Feb. 16.

It is too late!

For two days, I have kept my apparatus shut off. I have not so much as looked at the ants, but still that confounded bell tone rings in my ears with all the insistence of African tom-toms. Hour by hour… the tone becomes more penetrating. I cannot sleep, and can eat but little.

As a last resort, I destroyed my ant colony. I even went so far as to pour boiling water on the four ant hills in my yard.

Still… the bell tone persists. I can stand it no longer!

Perhaps if I were to dig… again in the yard… in the soothing earth, I could forget…

***

(News Clipping: From Philadelphia Banner)


RADIO COMMUNICATIONS ENGINEER DEAD

Howard E. Edwards, Suicide

Philadelphia, Feb. 18. The body of Howard E. Edwards, B.S., PhD., Member I. R. E., eminent authority on Radio Communications, aged 56, was found this morning in the back yard of his residence, 1427 Raines Avenue. The body was almost completely buried in a long narrow hole in the ground.

At first, foul-play was suspected, but later it appeared that Edwards had dug himself into the ground and died of suffocation, as his nostrils and mouth were filled with dirt.

Dr. P. A. Hofner, who examined the body, found no wounds, stated that Edwards had been dead for about two days, and pronounced the death as a clear case of suicide, the strange means employed probably due to an unbalanced mental condition.

Elaborate radio apparatus upon which Edwards had been working had been smashed to bits.

Thoughts du Jour

Pollen and Pollination

Every spring for a couple of weeks, my corner of the world — and probably yours — gets coated in pollen. At the same time, dried-out thingies begin raining down from the oak trees, clumping together and piling up and staining the driveway.

This year, I decided it was past time to identify those mysterious dried-out thingies. I wasn’t prepared for what I discovered.

They are called catkins, and they are the male half of oak tree reproduction. They contain pollen, which is carried by the wind to all the female oak flowers out there. Specifically, the male flowers form in the summer, produce pollen the next spring, die and dry up, and bingo.

The wind can carry the pollen many miles, but only a tiny fraction of the grains will pollinate a female and create an acorn. Further, the vast majority of acorns get eaten by animals and don’t make it to tree-hood. Nature doesn’t do pity.

The yellow coat of pollen on your car, by the way, is from pine trees, not oaks. Grains of pine pollen are large enough to be visible, but too large to bedevil your sinuses; oak and other hardwood pollen is much smaller and is the stuff that makes you sneeze and cough.

You, not me. Pollen doesn’t bother me at all.

The Power of Books

Scientist and science champion Carl Sagan, bless him, had a way with words. In 1995, one year before he died, he published The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. In the book was the following passage.

———

For 99 percent of the tenure of humans on earth, nobody could read or write. The great invention had not yet been made.

Except for firsthand experience, almost everything we knew was passed on by word of mouth. As in the children’s game “Telephone,” over tens and hundreds of generations, information would slowly be distorted and lost.

Books changed all that.

Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate — with the best teachers — the insights painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history.

They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses.

Books are key to understanding the world and participating in a democratic society.

———

That wonderful observation, I should note, came in a book.

The Oklahoma Panhandle

You’re no doubt familiar with the Oklahoma Panhandle, that odd strip of land west of the rest of the state, sticking out like the handle of a pan. But do you know the story of its origin? I didn’t either.

When the Republic of Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1821, the panhandle region was part of Texas. But when Texas applied to enter the Union in 1845, there was a problem. The U.S. prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36°30′ north. The panhandle strip is north thereof.

Texas (sigh) insisted on being a slave state, so it surrendered its claim to the panhandle. For the rest of the century, the area was a no-man’s land between states, the home of assorted cattle ranches, homesteaders, and outlaws. Finally, the panhandle was tacked onto Oklahoma when it became a state in 1907.

The panhandle region is 168 miles east to west and 34 miles north to south. It consists of three minimally-populated rectangular counties, the westernmost of which, Cimarron County, borders Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico.

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

Going Places

Several decades ago, I met a man in Buford, Georgia, born and raised there, who had never been to Atlanta. Atlanta is a mere 35 miles from Buford via Interstate 85.

In fairness, he avoided Atlanta because he considered it an evil place full of crime and villainy.

But in addition, he had never set foot out of Georgia. He was in his 40s, an auto mechanic, married with kids. He was content and saw nothing unusual about his situation.

I, on the other hand, found it mind-boggling. Having been to, and lived in, so many different places in my life, I simply was astounded.

When I was a kid, my dad was in the Air Force, and we moved often. Very often. Growing up, I lived in Macon, Jacksonville, Savannah, Japan, Virginia, Florida, France, and Germany, in that order.

During our two years in Japan, we traveled the islands regularly. During our three years in Europe, we visited Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, England, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

When we returned to the US in 1960, I spent the next four years at the University of Georgia in Athens. It was the longest I’d lived in one place in my life.

On the About Mr. Write page on this blog, I describe myself as a frequent road-tripper. I mean that literally.

Since 1992, when I finally began documenting my travels, I have taken 134 multiple-day trips somewhere around the country. That’s about four trips annually. In other words, for the last 30 years, I’ve hit the road every three months.

I have visited every state in the US except Alaska. Especially after my divorce, I made it a point to seek out new places, just to see, explore, and experience.

As you may know, I have a special affinity for the Southwest, and Grand Canyon is my go-to vacation spot. As I am quick to note, I’ve been to Grand Canyon 28 times in the last 28 years.

I’ve probably driven every paved road in Arizona, New Mexico, and the southern halves of Utah and Colorado.

At some point, I began taking trips to fill in the blanks, going to New England, the Great Lakes region, the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf coast, the Appalachians, Montana, and so on.

Lately, COVID has cramped my style a bit. Age and arthritis have slowed me down, too. I don’t think my traveling days are over quite yet, but when they are, I’ll be content because of the memories.

Stored in my head are decades of superlative memories, many of them documented by the thousands of transparencies, prints, and digital images I’ve amassed — and which, I assure you, are carefully preserved and organized.

Like all of us, I am a walking memory vault of my unique experiences.

I am blessed to be a son, brother, nephew, cousin, father, and grandfather. Family memories will mean the most, always. But the memories of my travels and adventures on the road are in a special category.

I thank God I’m not the Buford mechanic.

Recently, on a travel website, I read an article entitled, “The 16 Most Beautiful Places in the US.”

Listed were Acadia, Antelope Canyon, Badlands, Everglades, Florida Keys, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Horseshoe Bend, Mammoth Cave, Monument Valley, Niagara Falls, Shoshone Falls, White Sands, Yellowstone, and Zion.

A fine selection. But they should have made it 17 and included Yosemite. For the record, I’ve visited all 17.

Okay, that said, I am compelled to include some photos…


The trail to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah, follows that ridge.

A black bear and her cub, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
In the village of Supai in Havasu Canyon, Arizona, few dogs are house pets. Most live free-range and are cared for informally by the community.

The French Quarter, New Orleans.

A boy swimming nose to nose with a manatee in the city of Crystal River, Florida. Up to 1,000 manatees winter there because the water in the bay is warmer than the Gulf.

A nice Monet in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
A row of seastacks on the Pacific coast.

Native Americans sell their art daily at the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Hermit Rapid on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. When the sediment levels from upstream tributaries are low, the water is emerald green.

Tunes o’ the Day

The alt-rock band Concrete Blonde released its debut album in 1986. The song “True” was included on the album twice, once with lyrics and again as an instrumental.

In 2002, after breaking up and reforming, as so many bands do, ho-hum, Concrete Blonde released “Group Therapy,” an album that includes “True, Part III.”

In 2012, the band disbanded again. Johnette Napolitano wrote in a farewell message, “Music lives on. Keep Listening. Long after we’re gone, the music will still be there.” Indeed.

As good as they were, Concrete Blonde somehow never clicked with the public and rose to the top. Such a shame.

In my subjective opinion, all three versions of “True” are well done, artistically and technically.

Which is why I present them to you herewith.

True

By Concrete Blonde, 1986
Written by Johnette Napolitano and James Mankey

When I’ve had enough,
I’ll get a pickup truck,
And I’ll drive away.
I’ll take my last ten bucks
Just as far as it will go.

Sometimes I’m easily fooled.
I take a painful step,
And I get knocked back two.
I do what I can,
And it’s all I can do.
But I’m true.

And if I had the choice,
I’d take the voice I got,
‘Cause it was hard to find.
You know I’ve come too far
To wind up right back where I started.

And they tell me who I should be.
I’ll never let those monkeys
Make a mess out of me.
I give all I am,
And it’s all I can do.
Ah, but I’m true.

One more sunset.
Lay my head down.
True.
One more sunrise.
Open my eyes up.
True.

And then they talk you up,
And then they talk you down,
And you begin to doubt.
Sometimes the reasons seem so very far away.

Ah, but I’d stop breathing today,
‘Cause if I can’t walk proud,
I’d rather walk away.
I do all I am, and it’s all I can do.
But I’m true.

I’d give all I am and give it to you.
True.
So true.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2022/02/concrete-blonde-true.mp3

The instrumental version:

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2022/02/concrete-blonde-true-instrumental.mp3

True, Part III

By Concrete Blonde, 2002
Written by Johnette Napolitano and James Mankey

And I
Will leave this life,
And I will know
I’ve done the very best I can.

And I
Will leave behind
Strain and pain
And take the blame for who I am.

And I,
I tried,
Tried to find a way
To hang it all together,
Oh, together.

And when
I leave this life,
What will you say of me,
You, who never knew my heart?

For I
Will leave behind
The sound of a woman
Who knew what was true
From the start.

And I,
I wanna slide
Out of my old hide
All clean and free and better.

Yeah, I
Wanna ride
Off into a wild new morning,
Off into forever.

Forever.

Oh, I,
I wanna ride
Off into some wild new morning,
Off into forever.

Oh, I,
I wanna slide
Out of my old hide
All clean and free and better.
Oh, forever.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2022/02/concrete-blonde-true-part-iii.mp3

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● When King James V of Scotland died in 1542, his daughter Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland — at the age of six days old.

● Cheese is the world’s most commonly shoplifted food item.

● Every year, scientists discover about 18,000 new species of plants and animals, half of which are insects.

● In 1887, a partial skeleton of the three-horned dinosaur Triceratops was unearthed by geologist George L. Cannon near Denver. Dinosaurs being a bit of a new concept in those days, Cannon thought the bones were those of an especially large and unusual bison. Only after a third and more complete skeleton was found did Cannon see his mistake.

● The National Park System consists of 423 sites, 63 of which are full-blown National Parks.

Bonasa umbellus, the ruffed grouse, is a game bird native to Canada and the eastern US. Umbellus is Latin for umbrella or sunshade, referring to the bird’s showy neck plumage. Bonasa comes from the Latin words bonus (good)and assum (roasted).

● An ant can lift about 50 times its own weight.

● The word orangutan comes from the Malaysian words orang, meaning “person,” and hutan, meaning “forest.” It usually is translated as “man of the forest.”

Thoughts du Jour

Nope

Recently, just for something different, I bought a copy of Mother Earth News, a how-to magazine about sustainable farming, natural gardening, simple living, etc. Among the articles was a story by a woman who raises Guinea Hogs, a breed of small black pigs.

The author described the animals as intelligent, friendly, and gentle. She said one of her females, Louise, enjoys belly rubs, ear scratches, and going to the park on Saturday to listen to banjo music. Guinea Hogs are “full of personality,” she wrote. “They’re easy to love and easy to handle.”

She then added, “They also provide delicious pork and lard.”

People, I am as carnivorous as the next guy, but killing and eating animals that literally live as pets — that’s just wrong. Don’t lovingly raise animals you plan to murder and consume. Don’t name your pig Louise and take her to the park and then execute her for bacon. Jeez Louise.

The Miracle

In 1954, I was a 12-year-old 7th-grader living in Panama City, Florida. On one memorable spring Saturday, Mom and Dad took us kids to the Bay County Fair, which, incidentally, dates back to 1945 and still operates today.

In those days, children rarely were supervised. If you were old enough to take care of yourself, you were chased from the house and told to “go play” and stay out of trouble until suppertime. Thus, when we got to the fair, I was given a dollar and set loose to have fun, stay out of trouble, and return at a specified time.

Rides at the fair cost about 25 cents, drinks and snacks about 10 cents. I was delighted to have that dollar, but I knew it wouldn’t go far. I would need to spend it wisely.

Then, a miracle happened.

Something on the ground a few steps ahead caught my eye. I approached. To my utter astonishment, it was — gasp — a federal reserve note — the beautiful, unmistakable green of cash money. I picked it up, heart pounding.

Holy mother of God, it was a five-dollar bill!

Five dollars! I was rich! In my sheer ecstasy, I nearly fainted.

How I spent my riches at the fair that day, I don’t recall. But I spent every glorious penny of it.

For the record, I did not tell Mom and Dad about my good fortune. They would have made me save some of it or share it with my brothers.

As if.

Hoarding

We common folk justifiably get steamed at how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And usually, most of the ire is aimed at billionaires — Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates — because it gives you a face you despise and want to punch.

But there are institutional targets that deserve the vitriol even more. Take, for example, the obscenely wealthy churches of the world. Organized religion is, after all, simply a type of business enterprise — exempt from taxation, mind you — designed to make a profit.

The Mormon Church is worth a whopping $100 billion, which is amazing for its relatively small size. The Catholic Church no doubt has a net worth of many times that, but its wealth is off the scale to such a degree — vast gold deposits, extensive physical assets, webs of investments, priceless works of art — that the Holy See itself likely doesn’t know its own value.

Speaking of value, you may not be aware that the British royal family is worth $88 billion. And that the Kuwaiti royal family is worth $360 billion. And that the Saudi royal family is worth $1.4 trillion.

All that wealth, hoarded to no real purpose, when a small percentage of it would lift all eight billion souls on this planet out of poverty.

As if.