Putting all that cash in perspective

With all the chatter in the media about Congress spending $500 Billion for this and $500 billion for that, we thought it worthwhile to put all that cash in perspective. I have held a few $20 bills in my hand, so I can imagine what a few hundred dollars would look like, or perhaps even one thousand dollars. But a million dollars? A billion dollars?

This is $10,000 in $100 bills.

Yes we know, it’s a thing of beauty. I considered using a stack of $20 bills, but it just didn’t resonate as well as the $100 bills. Besides which, for the demonstration that follows, this post would be 5 times as long.

This is $1 MILLION in $100 bills at the foot of say … one of the elected officials we sent to Washington DC. For perspective, this person is 6′ tall wearing size 12 sneakers (size is for comfort only). Any similarities that figure shares with Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced former governor of Illinois, is purely coincidental. Besides, Rod Blagojevich is only about 5’5″ and thus too short for this perspective.

That $1 million in $100 bills takes up about the same floor space as a pair of size 12 sneakers, so who in Washington DC is going to miss that?

This is $100 MILLION in $100 bills resting comfortably on a standard shipping pallet, sometimes also called a skid which, coincidently, is also a verb used informally to describe a downward path to ruin, poverty, or depravity.

The cube it forms is approximately 4 feet on all sides. It’s conceivable, however unlikely as it may be to you, that someone in Washington DC could actually NOT notice this amount of money missing. There are a lot of cube heads (a.k.a., block heads) in Congress “we the people” bless with the privilege of representing us so we are going out on a limb and say that even this amount of money may not be missed.

This is ONE BILLION DOLLARS in $100 bills resting comfortably on 10 standard shipping pallets or skids. At this point, the definition of the verb “skid” is beginning to resonate.

Even the block heads we send to Congress will admit that this is now “real money” and will need some help in moving it all about. If you are in Congress, needing help in moving anything about inevitably means some form of compromise or quid pro quo with some other Washington block head – a potentially very risky move, so it may be better to just punt. When you are elected to Congress, you punt a lot.

This is ONE TRILLION DOLLARS in $100 bills resting comfortably on 10,000 standard shipping pallets. The pallets are stacked two high.

The barely distinguishable tiny red spec on the bottom left of the image above is the same 6′ tall square head elected official with bad hair and size 12 sneakers he wears for comfort that we sent to Washington DC.

The current fiscal year ends on September 30th. Just nine months into this fiscal year, the federal deficit had topped ONE TRILLION DOLLARS – the first time that has happened. With one month to go, this year’s actual budget deficit, the net of outlays (spending) vs receipts (taxes) was 1.5 TRILLION DOLLARS – FOR LESS THAN ONE YEAR!

-Surface Earth columnist: CB

A Lion Passes

Senator Edward Kennedy (1932-2009)
[Photo Credit: AP]

In regards to civil rights, health, and the economic well-being of the average American, few elected officials anywhere have accomplished as much.

No real life is flawless, and his was no exception. The difference in Ted Kennedy was that he did not drown himself in self-pity, would not quit when many told him he should and his heart never stop beating for his passion. As a result of his passion, our nation and the treatment of its people by their government, is a far better place now then when he first arrived in the Senate 47 years ago.

-Surface Earth columnist: CB

Something is very wrong with this picture

“Throw in a few billion here and a few billion there, and before you know it, you are talking about real money…” . I don’t recall who first coined that phrase, (I think it was in the late ’80s), but when I first heard it, it was Millions not Billions!

America’s states are facing a projected budget shortfall of $165 billion for fiscal year 2010, the cumulative total projected through 2011 is estimated somewhere between $350 billion and $375 billion and that’s only if the unemployment rate flattens out and begins to drop by mid- 2010.

Economics 101: When states and local municipalities run out of cash to pay their bills, their options are: 1) anger working families [by raising the “jambalaya” of taxes they pay every day], 2) hurt the working poor and those unemployed [by cutting spending on essential services] or 3) just piss everyone off by doing both. When the federal government is short of cash, they can do the same things or just simply vote to print more cash – in Football, that is called a punt. When you are elected to Congress, you punt a lot.

As obscene as $165 billion of “real money” may sound to you, consider that the US tax payers gave $180 billion to bail out just one company, AIG, $13 billion of which went straight to pay AIG’s debt to another company, Goldman Sachs.
That’s right, for what we tossed just to AIG, we could have covered the budget shortfall of every state in the nation for 2010 and still have $15 billion to spend. Add in the $50 billion to another company (Citigroup) and $45 billion to another (Bank of America) and Goldman Sachs who received their own $10 billion tax payer toss, and we are on the path to ensuring that no state in the nation needs to cut vital services through 2011.

I know what you are thinking … “but we averted a global financial meltdown that would have resulted from the banks inability or fear to lend money (a.k.a., the credit freeze)”. Perhaps, but credit is as cold today as it was last Fall. And when was the last time you heard of anyone walking into a Goldman Sachs branch to get a home mortgage? [Hint: NeverGoldman Sachs, along with others, became a “bank” only after the TARP program was announced.]

Fed Chairman Bernanke, in his testimony to the House and Senate finance committees, used the recent recovery of the stock markets and the swelling bottom line of the large financial institutions (and by definition, their record bonus payouts) as a vindication of the Treasury and the Fed policies, and proof that they had averted a global financial disaster.

Perhaps, Bernanke also made clear that the prospects for improved employment, home values or even a decrease in home foreclosures, wasn’t likely for the next couple of years. He went on to say that “financial conditions remain stressed, and many households and businesses are finding credit difficult to obtain”…e.g., in spite of the massive amount of money the US taxpayers have tossed to the banks, the credit freeze remains.

Moody’s Economy.com predicts that 1.8 million borrowers will lose their homes this year, up from 1.4 million last year. I know what you are thinking … “but wasn’t that the reason we tossed out all those billions and billions of dollars (a.k.a., real money) to the banks?” Perhaps.Obviously, homeowners in or at risk of foreclosure are also not paying their local real estate taxes.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that 20 or more states have already made cuts to public health programs, programs for the elderly and disabled, and aid to K-12 education. Over 30 states have cut assistance to public colleges and universities. Across the nation, states have announced additional cuts to; health coverage to elderly and disable, school meals, homeless shelters, services to seniors, occupational therapy, Alzheimer services, drug assistance, mental health issues, legal services for foster children, K and Pre-K programs, and more. But all is not gloom, the Feb Chairman is correct; the stock market is indeed up and so are the Wall Street bonuses.

Something is very wrong with this picture, but you may have noticed there is not much “buzz” in the press these days about TARP money. The new “House” fire everyone in Washington is running to is the one where our nation’s first black president is being compared to a Nazi because of his health care policies. That one may take me a lifetime to figure out so I will do as Congress does and just punt.

-Surface Earth columnist: CB

sponsor a child

$1200 a year.

It’s a lot for some of us.

Suppose some of us could come together and sponsor a child?

We owe it to each other and to the future, to help the young ones. $1200 a year is much too much for many of us, suppose we had a network where 12 of us could come together and give $100 a year? Is it possible?

Sponsor a child

Imagine how you, I, we, could feel waking up each day knowing we have helped a child that maybe believed they were beyond hope?

Please, leave your comments and thoughts to help the innocent.

Our blessings to you.

Organic Fair Trade: helping each other

I call it Micro-Hope.

It’s my word, I guess.

What it encompasses is trying to find a way to buy what we need from each other.

I have asked Shelley Seale, the author, for links to foundations/groups that we can help. She has supplied me with a link to her site: See Shelley’s Resources.

I am also attempting to amass links to individuals, women, families, children, trying to make a living. I will start small but ask all of you to stop in, share some links, and we will update accordingly.


Start Small:

Women and Fair Trade

Etsy and Fair Trade

Global Girlfriend

NonProfit Shopping

CRS Voices

We are at the beginning of amassing sites/references/resources to help one another. Please help us.


Racist remarks by adult club members bring tears to children

The Creative Steps Day Care, a Philadelphia-area day care center, said Thursday, that members of a private swim club the organization had paid to attend, made racist comments about the center’s children to the point of bringing some of the young children to tears. Not to be outdone by its racist members, the swim club then quickly canceled the swimming privileges of all the children – from the day care center!

The Creative Steps Day Care children, ages kindergarten through seventh grade, went to The Valley Swim Club in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, on June 29. During their first visit, some children said they heard club members asking why African-American children were there. One of the young boys told the Philadelphia Inquirer that a woman at the club said she feared the children “might do something” to her child. Days later, the day care center’s $1,950 check was returned by the swim club without explanation. Club President John Duesler tells Philadelphia television station WTXF that several club members complained because the children “fundamentally changed the atmosphere” at the pool.
Frederico Maldonado and others gathered yesterday to protest alleged discrimination at the swim club in Huntingdon Valley.

Most reading this story are probably too young to remember the treatment of Sammy Davis Jr. by the casino where he and the rest of the famous “Rat Pack” group were performing. When a group of Texan “high-rollers” saw Mr Davis in the casino’s pool, they demanded the pool be completely drained and then refilled so they could “enjoy a proper swim”. Yes, we are being kind as I’m sure we all can imagine that different words were used by them, but you get the idea and the casino quickly complied. The other members of the “Rat Pack”, led by Frank Sinatra, refused to perform unless the casino apologized directly to Mr Davis, which they did and the incident never occurred again.

We believe a regime change is long overdue at The Valley Swim Club. The PA Health Department should also insist that its pool be drained and refilled as a precaution against further contamination by whatever sickness its current members may have brought to that community.

-Surface Earth columnist: CB

Update: Swim Club President denies charges

Real World Principle of Relativity

In physics, the principle of relativity is the requirement that the laws of physics in the observable world have the same form in all admissible frames of reference.

Now observe this photo of two little girls standing on the balcony of their home in Rafah, Gaza Strip – their observable world.

From one admissible frame of reference, this is an example of unbridled retaliation on a long suppressed population unable to defend itself.

From another admissible frame of reference, the view will state that Qassam rockets were launched from this area into their defenseless civilian populations killing innocent women and children.

In the real world, both sides of “relativity”, it seems, have their reality.

Even “relativity” itself, for a lack of a better term, is relative. For example, if even one these “holes” found its way into a wall of my home, I can be forgiven for, saying kindly, being beyond anger and acting accordingly. Taken a step further, suppose one of these holes did not just lodge in the wall of my home, but found its way instead into the chest of one of our daughters or our son, or their many friends that often frequent our home, what then must I and my neighbors be forgiven for? For loving our own, for avenging innocence?

-Surface Earth columnist: CB

It is a slippery slope my friends, we must decide where we stand. To not stand, is to not live. Namaste.

Hypocrisy, not infidelity, is the career killer for today’s politicians.

Surface Earth is posting, the following, from an contributing author:

Sex continues to unravel many political careers, so much so that I submit we are painfully bored by the news unless it details news ‘off the beaten trail’. For example, I submit for your consideration Larry Craig, the Idaho senator whose “wide stance” whilst using the public toilet led to what he characterizes as a “miss understanding” of his intentions to an undercover Idaho State Trooper. The latest tryst exposed for our entertainment is the republican governor from South Carolina, Mr Mark (don’t cry for me Argentina) Sanford.

Thankfully this time there was no adoring wife looking glazed eyed like a deer facing the oncoming headlights of a truck, standing by her man praying that the unfolding events now in the public eye can be watered down enough to save her dignity and thereby all the comforts that her husband’s position affords her and her children. Can we get a collective “you-go-girl!” shout out?

Now for all the recent banter in the news media of yet another politician caught pants down with a wayward libido, it well likely be the hypocrisy of Mr. Sanford’s behavior, rather than his tryst with an Argentinian woman, that will do him the most political harm.

For most politicians, adultery remains a formidable hurtle to overcome, unless of course you are Bill (“I did not have sexual relations with THAT woman“) Clinton or are in political office in Italy (Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister has admitted to having numerous affairs, including an 18 year old girl – he is 73) or Paraguay (president and former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo admitted to fathering one or more illegitimate children) in which case an affair or two with younger women may actually be a good thing (no pun intended).

Perhaps its not the skirt chasing tendencies of some or our elected officials, or as the former New City Mayor Ed Koch put it “he (referring Clinton) has a zipper problem”, that is of issue with most voters. Perhaps it is the sheer hypocrisy, that in-your-face finger waving and do as I say not as I do audacity that really eats away at our patience and inspires the masses to light their torches and sharpen their pitch forks.”

-Surface Earth columnist: CB

An interview with Shelley Seale on her new book “The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India!”

Surface Earth is pleased to be a stop along the way of Ms. Shelley Seale’s virtual book tour.



Imagine for a moment, that you had a chance to be all who you are, not just all you could be and you seized that moment and never let it go. Perhaps then, you would know, what it is to step into not just Ms. Seale’s shoes, but the children, who continue to benefit from her love. Take a moment and reflect on this piece, a short quote from Ms. Seale’s book:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

When have you become silent?

Can you even recall?

I wish I could, I wish I knew that moment so I could reverse it, I just know now, that it did occur and it stayed within me, my human being, but not within my soul. I read the words, the quote, Ms. Seale hand selected, Mr. King’s words: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent…”.

Begin to end?

Did we always have ourselves slated to end, is that how we became numb?

I can’t be numb any longer. I found Ms. Seale and her work by accident. I then stopped onto her site and was gifted with such charity of spirit, I will remain a fan from that day on.
Ms. Seale is a courageous humanitarian and author. She maintains a website: The Weight of Silence


She has been unrelenting in her efforts to spread the word on the plight of children in India who are homeless or orphaned for a variety of reasons. Her efforts are not exclusive to the children in Indian, her resume details her vast experience and efforts advocating for children also in the United States.

While we could extol her virtues for countless pages, we instead invite you to click on some of the links, read her works, read her blog, see the comments that are posted as she travelled on her journey and continues her journey.

Without further ado, Ms. Seale:

S.E.: How did you begin?

Shelley: I got involved with The Miracle Foundation locally here in Austin in 2004, volunteering for them and sponsoring a child. The Miracle Foundation is a nonprofit that raises money to support children’s homes in India – currently they have 5 homes and are supporting about 700 kids.

After a while Caroline Boudreaux, the organization’s founder, invited me to go to India with her, to meet the kids and work in the orphanage for a week. In March 2005, she and I and a group of about 10 other volunteers arrived for the first time in Choudwar, Orissa. It was such an amazing experience – these children who were beautiful and joyful and gave me complete unconditional love, for nothing more than just showing up. They all had difficult pasts, painful and tragic stories behind their smiling faces, and yet they have developed such a community of peace and sharing and family there. I had never been a part of anything like that.

S.E.: When did it become more than a thought and turn to action?

Shelley: When I began to realize that most of the hundred-plus children living in the orphanage were not there because they were orphans in the true sense of the work, because their parents had died. They had been largely orphaned by poverty – abandoned there or on the streets because their parents were too poor to feed them. I had trouble wrapping my head around that. I started learning the individual stories behind the faces and names, the issues such as child labor, trafficking, disease, gender and caste discrimination that had affected all these kids in ways that interwove together. I saw there was a much bigger picture to this than simple orphaning – and found out that there were 25 million other kids just like them, in just the same circumstances, all over India. They are invisible children because they are largely ignored and don’t have a voice in society or to the world at all. I starting thinking about writing this book, and then began an outline and structure to the book, in the hopes that I could tell their stories and help to give them a strong and powerful voice with which to make themselves heard.

S.E.: How could you tell others how to turn their thoughts to action?

Shelley: I always say to start small, and just do something. I think that often times we all get overwhelmed by the enormity of issues and problems facing humanity as a whole. It’s easy to feel powerless and give up before we even begin. I think that the first step is to really think about, and discover, what it is you are passionate about. It’s hard to stay involved and committed to a cause if you don’t have a true passion for it. For me it’s these children of India, but it doesn’t have to be that for everyone. If I could inspire someone to find their own passion and cause, I would feel rewarded. Figure that out – and then just start small. Maybe make a small donation or do a tiny bit of volunteer work. Even just signing a petition or letting others know about a cause or issue can make a big step. I have been constantly amazed and inspired by how much of a huge impact can be made by enough individuals just taking their own small actions. As Mother Theresa said – If you can’t feed a hundred, then feed just one.

S.E.: How, in these times, when we are all struggling, can we give back?

Shelley: There are plenty of ways. We may not all be able to contribute financially, and at different times such as these difficult economic times, we may be able to donate much less than usual, if at all. But money isn’t the only thing nonprofit organizations need. There are plenty of ways you can give your time by getting involved in supporting a cause through volunteer work – even from your own home. Be creative, and just give of yourself. It doesn’t have to be money. I think you might be amazed at how much comes back to you when you give.

S.E.: How do we not judge, but rather, contribute?

Shelley: I don’t think it’s the role of anyone to tell others how they should solve their own problems. For example, I have been very aware of being a foreigner writing about India and its problems. But my own culture has plenty of its own on which to focus, and so how can judgment come into play, morally? Most of the western world’s knowledge of India’s shortcomings is derived from western media and foreign development agencies, whose goal is often to please donors or people in power – in a word, outsiders. Not Indians themselves. Us outsiders, the humanitarian agencies and foreign aid programs, will always fall short in one important way. We do not and cannot know what is best for India. It is not a matter for us to come and instruct or order; for efforts undertaken in that way, no matter how well intentioned, will always fail in their arrogance. Foreigners rarely fully understand the society they think to “improve,” and the potential for imposing their own cultural bias can result in negative consequences for those whose lives they seek to change. We should come to listen, to learn, to assist where and when asked; and so the goal of this book is simply to allow us to hear what those voices have to say.

S.E.: All the best Shelley.