Sunday, February 27, 2011

Getting your goat

The second race of opening weekend saw a further upset. None other than an Australian by the name of Christopher Sutton won the 67th edition of Kuurne Brussel Kuurne. American expatriate Tyler Farrar was fourth. Tom Boonen tried twice to get some action going, including a break 4km from the finish, but in the end he got caught and it was all over.

Christopher who?

Flecha showed his determination in going with Tommeke early on, but his effort too was not good enough. Last year's winner, Bobby Traksel ended up in the (un)lucky thirteenth spot. This is just one of the many upsets we have seen so far this spring. From goats to road pirates, to absent favorites and lack of earphones, the pre-season has been anything but normal.

Speaking of goats disrupting bike races, I just read a herd of goats ran onto Northbound I-5 last night, forcing an hour long highway closure. No, there were no bikers involved, and as you might imagine in the land of oversized pickups and SUV's the goats did not escape unharmed either. About two dozen animals were struck and killed.

This is not the only way America is starting to look like a middle earth empire. According to recent reports on NPR, the income inequality in this country now exceeds anything we find in the First World, by an huge margin. It is also growing at an amazingly fast pace and if we keep this up, pretty soon the situation will not look all that different from that of some countries that have been much in the news recently.

America also exceeds its peers in two other attributes that featured prominently in recent turmoil. One is food insecurity, where 16% of the population said there have been times in the past 12 months when they did not have enough money to buy food. (I agree that this may sound hard to believe in a country where 60% of the population is overweight or obese, but everything is relative of course.)

The other attribute is the prison population per 100,000, which stands at 743, a number that is almost  double that of our nearest wealthy competitor.

Finally there is the issue of net worth. America's net worth now stands at about $182,000 per person, according to the WSJ, although they admit the number is pulled up significantly by a small group of very wealthy individuals. A more realistic and much more bleak report says that half the American population has zero net worth.

If you believe what you read in the popular press you may think these recent revolts were led by people who yearn for freedom and now that they have FaceBook they are empowered to find it. But if you are the more cynical type you might observe that high unemployment, high food prices, and income inequality are rampant in these locales.

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