I don’t know if bad news has reached critical mass this past week, but it seems that the last few days of newspaper reading has engendered a great deal of doom and gloom for yours truly. I should probably read the sports pages and maybe the comics section more often, because many news stories this week have me feeling like I’m reading a modern day version of “Day of Doom” by that Puritanical poet, Michael Wigglesworth. And because I’m a giving person, I thought I would drag you down with me!

1. The Politics of Power When Death is All Around You. If nature’s fury wasn’t enough to remind the people of Myanmar of cruelty, they have to suffer the tortures of the damned with a military government whose obsession with power and control stifles the assistance offered by relief agencies and nations. According to a report by the Associated Press, even though relief is getting to some people, we get this behind the scenes peek at what’s really going on: “The government is very controlling,” said U Patanyale, the abbot of a monastery in Kyi Bui Khaw village. “Those who want to give directly to the victims get into trouble. They have to give to the government or do it secretly. They follow international aid trucks everywhere. They don’t want others to take credit. That’s the Myanmar government,” he said.

2. Suburban Bust. A local story that’s a microcosm of the real estate woes the United States is experiencing centers on the city of Brentwood, CA. No, not the famous Brentwood in So Cal, the “other” one that used to be a farming community in Nor Cal, and was , in the last real estate boom, the fastest growing city in California. A lot of that great farmland was transformed into McMansions, tract homes, and strip malls for those who could “creatively finance” their way into the “home of their dreams.” Now that we’re in Act II of the real estate meltdown, where foreclosures are rampant, what happens to a community like Brentwood when vacant houses dot the landscape? That’s right, crime goes up, blight increases, and because some folks have been laid off, they turn to their second careers as suburban pot farmers — a la Weeds, but without the comedy.

3. Endless Night. Vets who served in Iraq are committing suicide at a higher rate due to PTSD. What’s worse is the cover-up by VA officials, who publicly dispute the suicide rate stats among Vets, while their own documentation tells a far more grim tale. There is a 24 hour suicide prevention hotline the VA set up, however: 800-273-8255 and press 1. Also, despite the C.Y.A. mentality that pervades the upper echelons of the VA, rank and file VA workers are doing a good deal to train people on responding to vets who are so messed up that they are thinking of ending it all.

4. The Earth Gets Pissed Off. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake leads to the death of almost 10,000 people in China, a volcano in Chile erupts spewing ash into the atmosphere eight miles high, and since I’m in Puritan mode, I see environmental red flag warnings as sign ‘o the times.

5. Apocalypse Now. Finally, in the U.S. postal rates went up on Monday (and will go up again next May). It begs the question: if the USPS has planned rate increases, why don’t they find an amount (say, 75 cents for a 1st class stamp) and keep it there? Whatever “profit” they get from this rate can go into a fund to offset any future price increases in stamps. Too forward thinking for the USPS? Yeah, I thought so…

Lulu Belle and Scotty (A sample of) “That Crazy War” (Download)