Saturday, September 20, 2008

AV; Waddles and Quacks ...

This humble post began life as a comment/reply to Wendy's post about our Brave New Fucked Up Economic World ...
but it got longer than a comment should rightly be.

(when does a "comment" become a "post"? when the author says it does!)

Here goes ... (written after reading all the coverage this morning of the latest economic news in my local rag).

I'm wondering about that so-subtle attempt (see comments to Wendy's post) to directly link the greed of the money managers at FM1 and FM2 with the Clinton administration. This goes way beyond either FM, and lies at the rotten heart of the economic system. It's just a cold fact that not everyone can resist the lure of the "free market" and will take advantage of those that have principles and ethics. I suggest a viewing of the documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room" before you go any further.

(I know that for me, when I was buying a house in mid-2001, that before long the dollars just felt more and more like monopoly money ... how could it be any less "game play" to folks who deal in the billions of dollars?)

The Good News
Today's news about bail-outs, wherein the US Govt is poised to take on faulty mortgage debt, and its acquisition of at least one financial giant - AIG (who a friend says has been recklessly buying its way into the insurance market at low-ball bids for the last 4-5 years ..), at the very least is good for one reason: the term "fascism" can be more easily applied. Fascism is what happens when Government merges with Corporation. This has been happening all along, but at least now it's right out there for the world to see. How can that be a bad thing?

And did you notice the "far-reaching new emergency governmental powers" on the edge of being granted?

But hey, at least this time it's a bi-partisan effort.

Weirder and weirder ...

Friday, September 19, 2008

AV: Still Trying To Figure It Out

Not a long post from me today. I have too much to write about and I just can't decide what it should be. Should it be more videos? Stories about the current administrations dismal failures (yes, I know ... which one?) or perhaps about the surreal presidential campaign. For example, I'm curious where the 527s are about Gov Palin's "I was for it before I was against it" bridge faux pas. Just asking.

I could write about how acorn season has begun in earnest here in the south of the west, where we live at the terminus of two Interstates: one heads into another country and the other falls off into the sea. I kinda like that.

Yes, acorn season. We've been picking em up and checking to see which ones are viable (the sinkers) and which ones might make fine jewelry (the floaters). Cataloguing them as we pick 'em up. I got 441 alone at a friend's house in Escondido - from the "mother oak" as she called it.

But no, I'm sitting here trying to figure out just why so many people are working so hard to make sure that I know without a doubt that I'm not worthy of being equal. What is it that makes some people so afraid that they would spend their money (in THIS economy, fer pete's sakes ..) to ensure that I and my family can never have all the rights everyone else has.

It's just beyond me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

WC: Greed and Stupidity

I work in the Wall Street neighborhood (though not in the Wall Street milieu). I work near Citi and Deutch Bank and AIG, etc. And the 'hood has changed markedly in the past week.

When I pass the Stock Exchange each morning, there are usually hordes of tourists, usually Chinese, all taking pictures of each other with the Stock Exchange in the background. Monday morning, however, there were few tourists, but the place was swarming with media: reporters, camera people, assistants--and trucks decal-ed with familiar logos: CNN, MSNBC, FOX.

Some reporters were trying to get men in suits to comment on the economic situation, but mostly they were getting brushed off. As a woman in jeans, I was not who they wanted to talk to.

Fast forward to this morning, when I stopped into Cafe Wall, where I often get a breakfast sandwich (bialy untoasted, turkey bacon, one egg; Raymond, a cute Hispanic man with a pony tail and an amazing memory, gets it ready without my having to order it, which is very nice). And the place was empty (NY definition of empty at 9:30 am = six customers). I asked Raymond if it had been this way all week and he nodded, and then pointed to the next bldg over, as if to say that people there had gotten laid off.

Lunch was at a luncheonette. (No, I don't eat all my meals out, but I did today, as it happens.) And, at 1:30, when it usually would be close to full, it was about half empty.

And the streets are quieter. It's easier to get around. It's spooky!

While writing this, I decided to get up my nerve and check my retirement funds. I've been saving for retirement since I was 27 years old. I can't say I've suffered horribly to fund my retirement, but there are things I've done without for Wendy-present in order that Wendy-future may be able to eat and have a place to live. Each year I put 18% of my income away into my 401K plus as much as can into a Roth IRA. So, drum roll, what do I have to show for it since Dec 31, 2007? A loss of about $30K. So far.

The future of our economy is truly frightening, and the reasons for our problems are truly infuriating. As a friend and I sort of coined together: who needs terrorists when you have republicans?

Greedy fuckers have stolen billions of dollars from our economy, yet again, and now we have to bail them out, yet again, and worry about our jobs, yet again, and worry about keeping our homes, yet again, and worry about eating cat food when we retire, yet again. And the worst of them got away with it, yet again.

A friend asked today if it makes sense to put money into the market just now. I've decided to stick to the same distribution I've been using all along for my 401K. Does that make sense? Who knows? Suzie Orman says it's a bad time to be investing. Does that make sense? Who knows? Some people say that times like these are the perfect time to invest. Does that make sense? Who knows?

Greed is killing this country.

Well, greed and stupidity.

Monday, September 15, 2008

DW: The Tsunami of No Possibilities

I was having breakfast on Sunday with my cousins Lori and Bonnie. This was a rare treat and not something we get to do very often

We were speaking of the feeling of "dread" and Lori said, "yes, it's the tsunami of no possibilities, isn't it?" I thought that was such an accurate description of the terrible feeling that can envelop us at certain moments. I had it briefly the other day and it felt just like I did when I knew that I was getting an F in geometry, for the third time in a row.

Emotion is the body's response to the mind. I think of that often when I find myself reeling or spiraling. It happens much less often than it used to, but when it does visit, it leaves me feeling like water can run through my body without stopping in my bladder, like there is no warm bed to climb into for refuge, or a favorite food that will quell my hunger. Clearly, it is the mind that shepherds us into such desolate places.

The day before we went out for breakfast we were celebrating my aunt Pearl's 85th birthday. Family has always been a mixed bag for me, ie, always grappling with the "wanna stay/wanna go" kind of thing. I'm not sure why, but my nervous system just suffers a major assault when I come into contact with certain family members. My petals fold, I completely withdraw, and I'm at the bottom of the pool not hearing anything but the sound of my breath struggling to stay submerged for as long as possible. All I could think of is how enormously grateful I am for my life. My struggles are nothing compared to the drama that has engulfed so many of my relatives. There isn't the need to elaborate--suffice it to say that I was in a room that contained a DSM for every day of the week.

See the complex thing here is that for so long, as a child and adolescent, I wanted nothing more than to live in Queens with my life centered around my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My world (as I imagined it) would have gone something like this: 12:00 pm, pick-up my aunt Pearl and go to Alexander's. Drop her off, take my aunt Annie to Waldbaum's. Drop her off, stop at my cousin Karyn's on 108th Street and have dinner, watch TV, and talk about my life--and at least three times a week. It's sort of my version of what I imagine living in Brooklyn was like where everyone revolved around everyone else's lives. Now I just have my own life to revolve around and sometimes it feels weird and un-natural when I think of my genetic predisposition.

It's Monday, and I'm glad to be back to my life and my new kitchen. I can't wait to put away my crushed tomatoes, pasta, rice, and grains into the 80 inch pantry. Much better than chauffeuring the aunts around Queens Boulevard.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

WC: Quote of the Day

From Why Is the Internet So Infuriatingly Slow? By Chris Wilson on on "The Internet owes its success to two pillars of human activity: masturbation and procrastination."

The guy's got a point.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

AV: Karl mentions Chula Vista!

Another gem from Jon Stewart, this time on our favorite subject of late: Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

AV: I'll Stay Right Here Until You're Fast Asleep

I wish I had a better photo ... or rather, I wish I had a photo of my mom from inside my head. A photo where she was laughing or something. Instead, all I have is a photo of a photo of a glamour shot she had done because she both felt and wanted to feel beautiful.

My mom passed away on September 3, 2005 with three of her children by her side. That would be me and two of my brothers: Richard, the eldest and David, the youngest boy (but still older than me, the "baby" of the family). The middle boy, Mark, wasn't able to make it there in time due to transportation issues and severe dysfunction. But that's another story.

My mom lived in Oregon for the last years of her life, having moved there (following her parents and younger sister) from San Diego in the early 80s. I never dreamed that I'd be there when she died, but it all worked out that way. I always expected that I would simply get "the call." I really didn't think I would have the chance to say goodbye.

My mom died of complications from Hepatitis C, contracted through a needle stick that occurred during her over two decades as a Registered Nurse (15 of those years as an ICU nurse). My brothers and I had moved her into an assisted living apartment within the few years prior to her passing and had been travelling as able to be with her, meet with her caregivers, and do our best to manage her growing needs.

And so, living so far away from her, I never thought I'd have the chance to be with her. When I did get the call, it was to her bedside in the ICU of an Oregon hospital where she never fully regained consciousness.

We - my brothers and I - stood at her side as, after we removed the breathing mask, her spirit moved swiftly from her body. I felt it go fully two minutes before the machines did that thing they do on all the medical shows (which are frauds, imho).

If I could do anything differently, I would go back and hold her hand more tightly, and remind her that while it was okay to be afraid ... that she really had nothing to fear. I would have helped her make ready.

Darel, godspeed and save some of that cheesecake for me.

     Her apt door, with memorial notice.

   Memorial table
     My brothers at the mouth of the river to the sea, where we scattered her ashes. This happens to be the perfect capture of both of them and is a favorite photo for me.

Monday, September 1, 2008

WC: Cynicism vs. Class

Andrea, "The Pain of Progress" is a great title that sums things up very very nicely.

And now it turns out that Palin's daughter hasn't exactly been abstinent, and Obama has called the topic off-limits. Obama is right, and gracious, and classy.

But could you imagine if it had been Chelsea? Could you imagine what Fox "News" would have had to say about that? The far right would have managed to make that story last many news cycles and overshadow Hillary's accomplishments, just as they made the notorious blow job overshadow Bill's.

I'm glad to be on the side of the person with ethics. But I have to wonder, in a little tiny voice, if maybe Dems need to play hardball too? I mean, it's kind of tiring voting for the ethical people who lose, you know?

But I still think Obama is handling this the right way.


AV: The Pain of Progress

I agree with all that has been said about Sarah Palin.

Yes, I agree that it is progress. And I especially agree with WC's friend Dennis when he said that what we really want is for the same opportunities for mediocre gay people as for mediocre straight people (my paraphrase, of course). Goddess knows I'm working my tukus off out here in California for the rights for every queer couple to get divorced in the same average 5 years after marriage as any straight couple. Now that's equality! And I'll give my last for it.

All that is true. Sarah Palin is a woman and she's done a damn good job of climbing through one of the "Old Boys-iest" Networks in local government that one can find in the state. She did it through a talent for opportunism, charm, and intelligence. She also did it by picking up on the fact that the populace at large doesn't seem to care about policies and "all those notecards" and stuff. They want to be entertained and led. She's smart. She sees the cracks in the door ... or ceiling, in this case.

And that's a good thing. A woman running on the highest ticket in the land. And, as has been said many places, one that could land her in the President's seat. Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled about this. In the abstract.

I was tremendously thrilled about Hillary running and thrilled about the very real possibility of her getting elected. I loved the idea that girls everywhere were seeing every day the power and potentiality of their gender, and that it was hot -- and not in the conventional sense, necessarily. But HOT as in "on fire." I love that. I still love that. It won't -- can't be undone. Even by all the egregious sexism from both sides. It can't be undone and girls and women have learned something that cannot be unlearned. We're moving on up, sisters, and it's about time.

So yes, Sarah Palin has succeeded in her world and has been chosen by the GOP (whether or not it was McCain himself remains to be seen) and it's a horrible choice for the county.

I am applying the same thought processes here to Sarah Palin and her potentiality as co-pres or maybe even President that I would apply to anyone else at all. No softballs. No handicaps. Because in my mind she is a candidate, just like Joe Biden is a candidate. Let's acknowledge the history and the shattering of gender assumptions in America and then let's move the genitalia issue to the back burner now, shall we?

On a purely political field, her ultra-conservative values are anathema to anyone remotely middle-to-left of the social conservatives who have been striking at the heart of this nation for years. Her anti-choice, pro-oil, anti-environment stance is enough for me to realize, regardless of her gender, that I don't want her anywhere near the White House. Heck, I don't want her near the statehouse in AK, but she was elected in a time of sweet opportunity.

Did you know she lobbied to remove the Polar Bear from the endangered species list? Did you also know that the North Slope, one of the last purely pristine places in her state, is now the site of a multi-billion oil pipeline (builder: TransCanada) and that her husband is an oil worker on the North Slope?

Did you know she has no education policy, no infrastructure, state services, health policies? She's a picture and as progressive as it is to see a woman on the ticket, we should all be disappointed in this choice. There are other qualified ... and steely conservative ... women out there in the political world who could have captured the percentage of voters he's looking at.

And honestly, I don't see how anyone who voted for Hillary could consider voting for the McCain/Palin ticket. Why were they supporting Hillary? In any case, based on my conversations over the last several days within the party and with independents, social moderate repubs, etc, I believe that the instances of Hillary supporters who support the GOP ticket are grossly overreported. Heat vs. light.

And, BTW, if the GOP is soooo besotted by her "tough gal maverick" image, why are they shopping her around to voters wearing a blouse unbuttoned to her bra, hair soft and down ...and not in the image she says she chose for herself (and hasn't departed from in years): skirt suit, blouse buttoned to collar, hair up ... "school marm". What, is she not sexy enough for them? Not "accessible" enough in the way only an unbuttoned white blouse and long flowing hair can imply?

There's more to say on this, of course.

But let's return, shall we, to the historic and jaw-dropping, ceiling-busting, taboo-breaking potentiality of a brilliant black man to the highest office in the land. Let's have a few words about the cultural movement there.

And don't tell me he hasn't got any experience.

WC: And Yet . . .

I agree with everything that AV said below about tokenism and how Palin is pathetically underqualified. And yet . . .

The fact that someone is being chosen just because she's a woman is still progress. Compare her to Dan Quayle. They're both terrible choices in terms of their ability to govern. They're both laughable. I knew JFK, and neither of them is JFK. But, if we can have a stupid, incompetent, embarrassing male VP nominee, why not a stupid, incompetent, embarrassing female one?

Tokenism is a step--an annoying one, but a step. I've been a token many times. When I had my column, it was often the only thing remotely female-oriented in sleazy gay-male-sex-oriented publications. Was it infuriating? Yeah. But it was also an opportunity. I got my point of view out. Maybe someone listened. And when the checks arrived, I cashed them with only a whiff of rue.

Palin is also a token in terms of her being of the far right. That part's frightening, because she may well pull in votes for being mega-conservative. But, even there, they still picked a reprehensible female.

I know this is a perverted view of progress in many ways, but it's also a realistic one. Politics will always be politics, and cynicism will frequently reign. Why shouldn't women get to play that game too?