Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Wasn't I One of Those Chosen for That Mission?

I'm sure that no one who reads my blog would consider me to be a McCain supporter, and indeed they would be correct in that assessment. It's not that I think Obama will be our Saviour, but McCain's got much bigger issues, even if it turns out Obama is as bad as Marion Barry (otherwise known as my favorite pie filling - I love being able to purchase a piece of the Mayor!). However, I don't wish to fill up bandwidth with lots of ponderous pontification on matters politick - I'm not nearly up to date on my readings to do it with any confidence, for one reason.

This does not prevent me from posting the more humorous offerings of this late political season - and believe me, there's plenty o' silliness to be had out there, passing itself off as discourse. For example, enjoy the following right-wing theory about the financial disaster being a left-wing conspiracy (no one mentions all the Republican supporters at the top of the corporate and banking chains who are still coming out of this with their several homes and apartments - yeah, they weren't diverted into taking out subprime loans)...sorry for the digression, here's the conspiracy theory as presented by the Right:
Why the crescendo of economic collapse right before the election? Why didn’t the media and congress act just as concerned some time ago or wait until sometime after the election to go into crisis mode? The timing of the current financial crisis seems too planned and calculating to be just a coincidence. Polls show that people’s number one concern right now is the economy and that for the most part, voters believe Democrats are somewhat more likely to help with the economy. Could it be that the liberal media and those in Congress, knowing that, is blaring the bad economic news from the rooftops in order to manipulate voters into voting for a Democrat? If so, it won’t be the first time.
Well, to answer that question, Barbara Ehrenreich presented the following on her blog:

October 21, 2008

Report from the Socialist International Conspiracy

Surely you have heard by now of the imminent socialist takeover of America, and if you find the prospect unlikely, ask yourself: How many socialists do you know who lost millions in the recent stock market crashes? Just as I thought—none—and that's not only because you don't know any socialists. The truth is that we, the Socialist International Conspiracy, not only saw this coming, we are the ones who made it happen.

The plan took shape during a particularly intense criticism/self-criticism session at our 2000 annual convention in a booth at an Akron IHOP. We realized that we'd been recruiting no more new members per year than the Green Bay Packers and that, despite all our efforts, more Americans have been taken aboard UFO's than have embraced the historic promise of socialism. So we decided to suspend our usual work of standing on street corners and hissing, "Hey, how'd you like to live in a workers' paradise?” Instead of building socialism, one worker at a time, we would focus on destroying capitalism, hedge fund by hedge fund.

First, we selected a cadre of crusty punks from the streets of Seattle, stripped off their Che t-shirts, suited them up in Armani's and wingtips, and introduced them to the concepts of derivatives and dental floss. Then we shipped them to Wall Street with firm instructions: Make as much money as you can, as fast as you can, and as soon as the money starts rolling in, send it out to make more money by whatever dodgy means you can find – subprime loans, credit default swaps, pyramid schemes – anything goes. And oh yes: Spend your own earnings in the most flamboyantly gross ways you can think of -- $10,000 martinis, fountains of champagne – so as to fan the flames of class resentment.

These brave comrades did far better than we could have imagined, quickly adapting to lives of excess and greed punctuated only by squash games at the Century Club. But we could not have inflicted such massive damage to capitalism if we hadn't also planted skilled agents in high places within the government and various quasi-governmental agencies. When all this is over, Phil Gramm, for example—the former senator and McCain economics advisor -- will be getting a Hero of Socialism award for his courageous battle against financial regulation. That's the only name I can name at this moment, but I will tell you this: If you happened to have been in a playground in the suburbs of DC any time in the last few years, and noticed an impeccably dressed elderly man poking around under rocks, that was a certain Federal Reserve Chairman, looking for his weekly orders from the central committee.

Things were going swimmingly until about a week ago, when the capitalists suddenly staged a counter-coup. We had thought that the nationalization of the banks would bring capitalism to its knees, but instead, the capitalists were craftily using it to privatize the government. Goldman Sachs, former home of Henry Paulson, has taken the lead, planting its agents so thickly about the erstwhile public sector as to earn the nickname "Government Sachs." Among the former Goldman Sachs operatives now running the country, in addition to Paulson, are the president's chief of staff, the chairman of the New York Fed, the man appointed to take over A.I.G., and the 35-year-old boy wonder selected to oversee the bail-out program.

According to the New York Times, "Goldman supporters" insist there is no "conspiracy" and not a black helicopter in sight – just a bunch of public-spirited investment bankers sacrificing their normal 8-figure salaries for the good of the nation. But we socialists know a conspiracy when we see one, and some in our ranks are complaining bitterly that as capitalism began to collapse, the bankers seized the life raft that was intended to save the laid-off, the foreclosed-upon, and the exploited masses in general.

Ah well, we socialists still have the election to look forward to. After months of studying the candidates' economic plans, we have determined that one of them, and only one, can be relied on to complete the destruction of capitalism. With high hopes and great confidence, the Socialist International Conspiracy endorses John McCain!

Nice to see that the Socialists are out there doing something besides scaring young college folk, but I was one of those crusty punks on the streets of Seattle in 1999 - why didn't I get a call up?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Paul Krugman linked to a wonderful piece in the Onion about America's urgent need for the next investment bubble - a piece I highly recommend reading. The article included a lovely graph which I'm reproducing here for your edification:

© Copyright 2008, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.

Personally, I'm hoping for Postmodernism. It's (mostly) all about nothin', as it's supporters maintain. (I'm not convinced of that, but that's another discussion.) Jacques Derrida futures - ha!

At any rate, the Onion piece reminded me of this long-ago favorite from - a site I considered to offer the best social/political satire. This is the site that gave us "The Axis of Just As Evil" (for those who believed it was from a Pythoner or some other famous comedian, nope - it was Andrew Marlatt). From 2002, folks - some people definitely saw the real estate disaster coming. Enjoy!


Low Interest Rates Help Many Fulfill The American (Banker's) Dream

Minneapolis, Minn. ( — Showing no ill effects from a weak economy, housing numbers released by the National Association of Realtors today showed that a record 75 million Americans are now participating in the mass self-delusion that they, and not their banks, actually own their homes.

Bob and Debbie use their imaginations

"Home ownership is the fulfillment of the American (banking industry's) dream, and we are proud to announce that more Americans than ever have been able to (help lending institutions) achieve that dream," said NAR President Richard Schicter.

After putting 20 percent down on a $235,000 house yesterday morning, Minneapolis pediatric nurse Stephanie Doogan officially became the 75 millionth American to take part in the widely accepted fantasy.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted to (deceive myself into believing I could) be a homeowner," said Doogan, 35. "Well, look at me now! Me, little Stephanie Doogan, I actually have a place I can call 100 percent (minus 80 percent) my own!"

Across the country, other (people in denial concerning their status as) property owners expressed similar satisfaction.

"There's nothing like taking a walk around your (bank-owned) house, then going outside and kneeling down in your (bank-owned) lawn and grabbing a handful of (the bank's) dirt to make you realize how precious (their) land is," said 28-year-old Matt Jackson, who('s bank) bought a $210,000 home on New York's Long Island last year. "It makes me feel as though I really have something that no one can take away from me (unless I miss so much as one mortgage payment)."

Added Devon Knight, who recently thinks he purchased a condominium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor: "When I was renting an apartment, if the furnace went out, I had to get the landlord to fix it. But now, if the furnace goes out, I have to fix it!... hold on, I'm losing the illusion here... why is that good again?"

"Equity," said Jay Harrington, Knight's mortgage broker at First Union. "Just remember, you have equity. And next to the right of every single American (major corporation) to have a say in who gets elected, that's the most sacred thing you can (pretend you) have."

Copyright © 2001-2002, SatireWire.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I've been a pretty slacking blogger recently - apologies, dear readers (all three of you). Since I'm not posting as regularly anymore, I'm going to add a subscription bit to the right-hand column; you'll be able to enter your email address, hit subscribe, and get the most recent post in your inbox. Woo hoo.

I've still been enjoying the financial meltdown - enjoy might not be the best word choice. It's rather like watching Godzilla rampage through the world economy instead of Tokyo. And I'm pretty sure most people outside of Japan would rather Godzilla were rampaging Tokyo. Soon enough my mutual fund will be worth so little that I won't be able to by a newspaper with it, even a weekday edition. It was a gift, though, so it's rather like free money - all I can end up with is nothing, which is what I had before it was given.

I do have an extremely simplistic question about the market. It seems to me that if everyone quits selling, the stocks will quit going down. Right? I realize that there are occasions where that strategy doesn't pay off in the end, for example, if you had stock in WaMu or Lehman Bros (were they actually a publicly traded company?). I do understand that not tanking the stock market won't resolve the bigger issues of banks holding paper that's losing value at a depressing rate, or the credit freeze that bollixed up commercial paper, etc. But if you've already lost 30-50% of your worth in stocks, why does rushing to sell the rest of it off seem like a good idea? If any of you send me an explanation I can understand, I'll post it.

Then there's the fun of playing the unemployment game. Quel surprise, I screwed up my application and had to call the Unemployment Insurance (UI) office. The woman on the other end was exceedingly helpful, and we got everything straightened out. In fact, I was able to report that fact to a friend of mine just yesterday...but I spoke too soon. I checked my mail and found that their system did not like something, so I have to complete some paperwork and send it in. Feh.

Speaking of fun, the Presidential/Vice Presidential debates are over. I must say, Barack Obama seems to have gotten his act down, and I mean that in the performative sense of the word. One of my friends and occasional readers compared McCain's performance in the previous debate as remniscent of Grampa Simpson, an analysis with which I agreed. Last night, he still reminded me of ol' Abe Simpson, and I fully expected John McCain to say, "I'll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missouri," or some other such nonsense as we usually hear from Grampa. In fact, I had summarized the first three debates (Prez & VP) thusly:

See! Sarah Palin act like a Barbie Doll! Hear! Joe Biden try not to say something studip! Watch! John McCain wheeze his way around the stage, talking to all his friends! Enjoy! The immaculate hang of Barack Obama's silk suit!

I spent a couple of days with The Mater last week. The most exciting aspect of that was going to a book sale where, for $15, I brought home many more books than I should have been allowed to buy all year. Bad Viviana!

I spent Saturday evening in the company of a poet. Previous experiences with poets were less than inspiring, part of that due to the fact that they weren't very good poets, and thus were tedious companions. This poet, however, is exactly to my taste - no crappy love poems, no bad beat poet imitations, but his own voice and a love of words that I'm sure surpasses my own. So there was plenty of conversation, some reading of poetry...and single malt double wood 16 yr old Oban. Now, I have to admit, I'm just a wee bit fonder of the Lagavulin; it's the peat. I love the scent and taste of the peat smoke in such a smooth and delightful delivery system as the 16 yr old Lagavulin. However, were I stuck on a desert island for the rest of my life with 20 crates of 16 yr old double wood Oban, I wouldn't shed a tear for my lost Lagavulin. I've always enjoyed the 12 yr old Oban, but the 16 yr old was delightful, smooth as anything. So please let me recommend - Oban 16 yr old double matured (as it is officially named). Super tasty stuff.

And finally - wheels. I bought me some wheels. A Diamondback bicycle. She's a nice little bike; I had to get the shrimpy sized frame (14 or 15). And panniers, helmet, gloves, dayglo jacket. It's not the lightest frame in the world, and I think it will be a few weeks before I can safely lift her high enough to get her on a bus bike rack (don't want to destroy my back), but I'll have enormous biceps once I reach that point.

Tell me, did y'all think I'd bought meself a car? Huh? Huh? I'm unemployed. I can't afford a car. Honestly, I'm not sure I can afford anything more expensive than a pair of discount running shoes, but I bought a bicycle anyway.

My social calendar is a little full the next four days - damn, how'd I get so popular? Anyhoo, I'll update y'all early next week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


For those who like their information in graph form for quick and easy comprehension, here's an analysis of the current bailout plan:

Blogging in the Lap of Luxury

Bwa-ha-ha-ha! While you peasants toil away, I'm luxuriating under my furs, snug and warm.

The astute reader may recognize the cloak-cum-throw from my Lucrezia Borgia halloween costume. Faux fur, but still warm and snug.

I've not been blogging so much lately - a lull in my external life has left me little of interest to blog about. My internal life is even less interesting to document than the external, so be glad of the relative silence.

The horrific soap opera that is the world economy has been keeping me entertained. Many cliched comparisons come to mind - train wreck, horror film, the Titanic, the Hindenburg - you get the idea, my friend*. The sinking/burning & crashing of the US economy was something I've been expecting (although, except for some canned beets, I can't claim to be prepared). I would love to say that I knew this was coming, sooner or later, because I have such a keen grasp on economics. If I said that, I'd be the worst sort of liar - a stupid one, because it would take almost no time to disprove such a claim. However, I read. I read authors whose analyses prove correct most, if not all, of the time.

Ted Rall is one of my favorites; I always enjoyed his writings, but when I read his "Generalissimo El Busho" (yes, that's the title of the book), I was astounded at the accuracy of his predictions of the first four years of life under Bush. Mike Whitney (not the cricket player) is one who has been commenting on the financial madness for a couple of years at least, and his articles often have pretty good explanations of how the system works and why something might be a bad idea. Paul Krugman, of course, has been firing shots across the bow of the Bush Administration for years; I recommend not only his op-ed pieces in the NYT, but also his blog, on which he provides nifty pdfs with extra information about economics and finance.

Noam Chomsky is of course the hardcore of current economic and political critique. His books from the 1980s and 1990s were dense, but again he is one whose observations and predictions on economics and politics have proven quite accurate; once you grasp them, it's not difficult to understand where things are going and why. I remember reading in one of his books over a decade ago the observation that the US was headed to a Brazilian model of society - a few superrich, and the rest of us living in ditches and fighting bears for the right to eat grubs. Paul Krugman recently showed how this has come to pass. If you ask me, that's some good predicting on Mr Chomsky's part.

So there, kids - if you want to understand how the world works, you can start with these fellows.

I spent the weekend attending writers workshops up in Edmonds. An exciting commute, to be sure. I enjoyed being downtown on Saturday for the big storm; at lunchtime I found a bench on a bluff that overlooked the ferry dock, and enjoyed the view more than I did my sandwich. I've said this to many people now, so please forgive me if you've heard this from me already, but it's depressing how many people are planning on writing bad thrillers. I heard more than one bad thriller plot over the weekend. Baaaaaad thriller plots. And mind you, my expectations of genre fiction are not all that high. It reminded me of working in LA, where everyone is working on a script. You hush out there - my script is nothing like theirs, it will be good! At least I don't talk about it, okay? Anyway, because of the workshops, I'm reading "Bleak House" now, rather than putting it off for six months like I originally planned. It's a thick book, and makes me wonder if it was the inspiration for the phrase, 'the dickens' - I'd hate to have to search through this massive tome looking for a word, phrase, character, event. Where in the Dickens is that passage where Ester meets her mother? Who in the Dickens is Lady Dedlock?

I must fix some sort of breakfast now - I've been up awhile, and I'm very hungry. Your homework assignment is to submit to me your bad thriller plots - I'll try to make something entertaining of them. 50 words or less, kids.

*I caught that phrase from John McCain, who sneezed it out 21 times, from the first count I could find; it's highly contagious. I hope to hear everyone addressing each other by that phrase at least once in each conversation, all parties saying it at some time or another. Just imagine how much livelier cocktail conversations could become!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Oh No!

My friend Redburp sent me an email with the following headline:
Las Vegas Jury Convicts O.J. Simpson
and then asked the following question:

who will find Nicole's killer now????????????

Good question, Redburp, good question.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

When I Read Things Like This, I Understand Why I'm Single

(From today's Washington Post)
White married women are particularly likely to see Palin as in touch, as three-quarters said she understands their concerns. At the same time, a majority of such women do not think Palin has enough experience to be a good president. (White married women support the GOP ticket by a 20-point margin.)