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Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Woke up this morning in a foul mood. Back pain. Crappy weather. Horrible headlines. It’s a bitching kind of day.

After a quick hit of lovely weather, we’re back to gray and damp. I hate March. It’s worse than February. March is like a lot of guys I know, all blustery and puffed out with self-importance and vague promises of nicer times ahead – promises it has no intention of keeping.

God, the news is awful, even leaving aside the ongoing crises in the rest of the world. Poor Natasha Richardson, dead after falling on a beginner’s slope. Oh sure, the fickle Fates take the talented ones young, leaving the crazy, less-talented wanna-bes around to pollute whatever art form they touch. And the coverage ; bordering on (no, scratch that, crossing over into) ghoulish speculation and details about her accident. It can’t possibly be as horrible as the media that followed John Travolta’s son’s death but still!  Are we, the readers, really getting what we want? What we deserve? Oh ugh.

What else? We’ve replaced Bernie Madoff  as villain of the week with the scoundrels who took bonuses at AIG.  Jeeze, shut up about the bonuses. Look, in a fair world, no one would get bonuses or golden parachutes in order to exit the company with enough for several lifetimes as the stock goes down in flames. Bonuses are supposed to be tied to performance, which ought to mean making money for your team without shafting the world economy. Well, it’s been years since that’s happened and where has the outrage been? Corporations went from rewarding the front office guys for bringing in the business to rewarding the front-office guys simply for being front-office guys. My husband was a back-office guy whose department saved his company a lot of money; he got one tiny bonus in fifteen years. Who cared back when the 401K plans were fat and happy?

Speaking of outrage, we’re being played, people. I mean, there’s a lot to be pissed off about but keep in mind the media, particularly the radio shock jocks and their cable alternates are lapping it up because anger is their stock and trade. Nothing like a little fire and brimstone to bring up the ratings. Over in Congress, the blowhards, including those who were never shy about accepting contributions from Wall Street types, are falling all over themselves to express righteous indignation. Frankly, I don’t buy their “heads must roll” routine. With all the speechifying, you wonder if anyone is actually working.

BTW, American people, I share yours fear, concerns and anxieties. But the mob mentality is a real backward step in our supposed evolution. Are we returning to the days of pitchforks and torches?  I mean, finger-pointing and people-bashing are already out of hand , but death threats and demands for the names of the bonus-holders (the better to garrot the family members with piano wire?) and what’s with the heavy artillary aimed at AIG CEO Edward Liddy, who came out of retirement at a buck a year to take this sh-t? A little venting may be in order and we may all have questions for Treasury Secretary Geithner and Senate banking Chairman Dodd (lots of questions), but we’re over the line. This is America at its worst.  Pull back, people.

So I’m thinking I have enough for a column (whoops, sorry, a blog post; I get delusions of grandeur at times) but then I turn to the back of my paper and read Gail Collins’ piece on how pissed off everyone is. As usual, it’s clever, it’s timely, it’s well-research. As usual, she’s written on the very topic I was going to explore. She’s scooped me. Again! What the hell! Fine, Gail has millions of readers and I have maybe sixty-four unique visitors a day but still. She’s always one step ahead of me – always. It’s so unfair. Whaaa! I’d stamp my foot but – ow! – I can’t: my piriformis hurts too much. Serves me right.

(Please note:  I will be back to my regularly scheduled, fair and balanced, voice-of-reason postings next week.  Thank you for your indulgence.)

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My mom used to tell me there were glass half full kinds of people and glass half empty kinds of people but sometimes it seems out of our control. You get the good news from your doctor, followed by the no-so-good news from your employer. You connect up with one friend and inadvertently start a fight with another. The sun comes out, you walk outside and the skies open up, drenching you in a downpour. You have good days and bad days. It seems as if the cosmos gets to decide just how full the glass is, not us.

 

This month has been particularly stressful despite the adrenaline rush of the election. The days are getting shorter, there’s a lot going on in the world and really, how much can one guy be expected to do? But if you try, you can locate uplifting stories out in the world or in your own backyard. Or sure, some of us have a tendency to feel grumpy this time of year. But we can fight it, yes we can. So, in the interest of promoting the positive, I’ve collected various stories from here and there that surely must count towards a fuller glass:

 

  • According to a recent NBC report, the number of new cancer cases worldwide is down.
  • “Stocks Mostly Rise As Financials Gain on Fed Plan”  – we’ll take it!
  • The Giants and the Jets are both playing very well.
  • Post-Thanksgiving sales on so-called “Black Friday” may not be so bad.
  • There is good going on in the world, promoted not only by individuals but also by governments. For only a sample, look at what at Search for Common Ground‘s recent award winners are doing to promote understanding and good-will.

 

Btw, if you want your news delivered sunny-side up, you can actually go to a website that delivers only positive news stories. Sure, you may be missing something but it’s worth it for the feeling, however temporary, that the world will not only survive but also thrive. And for that we can all be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

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My father, who was a fan of recitation, frequently used the phrase from an ancient Persian proverb, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” to remind us about gratitude and, I think to keep us aware of perspective. Perspective – the ability to step back, take the long view, see the big picture – is, to my way of thinking, one of life’s great coping tools. I’m amazed at how difficult a concept it is for most of us to grasp.

 

Perspective: I have pain in my hip and lower back caused by disappearing disc material at the bottom of my spine, not to mention my neck. The condition, I guess you’d call it, is irreversible, but it is manageable as long as I keep exercising and stay abreast of various low-level pain medications. I could feel sorry for myself and I do, on occasion. Then I think about Patrick Swayze, who’s working 12-hour days on the set of his new show despite a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, almost always fatal.

 

Perspective: My friend is absolutely terrified about her post-graduate kids’ job prospects in this economy. She can’t imagine it being worse, although it seemed pretty bad back in the seventies and eighties when I was hopelessly job-hunting and living in cities whose drug-infested neighborhoods were a lot less safe to live in. Not only that; the clothes were worse. If you don’t remember or weren’t around, check out the new ABC show Life On Mars.

 

Perspective: This is the most frightening world we’ve ever lived in, says my cousin, forgetting perhaps, the time she spent as a schoolgirl cowering in a fall-out shelter in the early sixties under near-constant threat of nuclear annihilation.

 

Perspective: I’m slaving over this blog in near total anonymity while Samuel Werzelbacher, AKA Joe the Plumber contemplates a record deal. Okay, I admit I have NO perspective in this instance; it just seems wrong.

 

Perspective: A blogger on Huffington Post recently suggested that fully half the voters will, if their candidate loses, sink into a state of despair so severe they may never recover. I guess that’s the downside of having an election everyone is so passionate about but I seem to remember friends threatening to leave the country in 2000…and 1980…and 1972. Somehow, we stayed in place and even survived.

 

It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times but it always seems what’s happening in the moment is the most consequential thing happening ever. It’s understandable, given how imperfect our memories are. Not only that, this really has been the longest, most expensive, most expansive, most analyzed, covered, dissected and ubiquitous campaign ever. It will certainly make history and it certainly deserves our attention and our participation. Oh yeah, I really, really want my candidates to win. But win or lose, I’m going to get up Wednesday, stretch my back and get to work.

 

VOTE, Y’ALL

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I crawled out of bed after being hit by a spring version of the flu, I suppose, to learn that Priscilla Presley had been kicked off “Dancing With the Stars,” the Yankees had trounced the Red Sox and [your candidate here] had won the Democratic debate on Wednesday. I watched a little of it but the acrimonious tone and the constant hammering nearly sent me back to bed. While Obama’s use of the word “bitter” in describing small-town America is getting all the attention (temporarily sweeping aside Clinton’s claims of being under threat of sniper fire in Bosnia), did anyone catch the revelation that Cindy McCain’s homey little website featured a couple of recipes poached from the Food Network? That bit of “news” rated a six column article in the New York Times, which can ill afford the space in its print addition. Are we all going crazy here or am I still suffering the after-effects of the flu?

All three of the candidates are wealthy and privileged, all of them are educated and very smart and all of them are pandering, though Obama far less skillfully. I suspect he doesn’t understand why he has to and there are some days when I wonder the same thing. Why are we focusing on whether a guy wears a pin in his lapel? I don’t wear a pin nor do I have a flag decal in the rear window of my gas-guzzling car. You can love your country and recognize that symbolism can also mask laziness or hypocrisy. Don’t forget, there are politicians and CEOs wearing flag pins and it doesn’t mean they’re looking out for the best interests of the ordinary citizen. On the other hand, I can’t for the life of me figure out why Barry had to act so squeamish about the calories encased in a free sample he was offered at a chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. Just eat the damn thing!

This campaign feels like a train wreck waiting to happen. For historical perspective, I took myself out of bed and down to the living room couch to watch a repeat of part six of “John Adams,” HBO’s fantastic rendering of David McCullough’s Pulitzer prize-winning book about our second President. Adams was truly unpopular, despite his success at avoiding war with France. He signed the roundly despised Alien and Sedition Acts , was villified constantly in the press and he had to take up residence in a White House still under construction. Imagine contemplating important bills in a drafty building by the light of a single candle while roof scaffolding threatens overhead. Oh and his son Charles, an alcoholic, died.

Adams had it tough, no doubt. He also seems to have been a prickly, arrogant sort. He didn’t pander and he was punished for it. I’m not certain his stubbornness was a virtue; his successor, Thomas Jefferson seems to have been a man of conviction, intelligence and vision but with a much lighter touch. It’s all very well to think about shattering precedents with the election of a female or an African-American (or even somewhat older) president. But what I really want is a superior president.

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