Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hour Without Light

Today is Saturday, 29 March 2008.

On this date in 1970, British writer and pacifist Vera Brittain died.

All honour to her, author of the classic Testament of Youth.

Today is also The Hour Without Power, Earth Hour. We are each and all called upon to turn off our lights and all non-essential electrical-power-sucking appliances, from 8 PM local time to 9 PM local time.

The Museum of the Bourgeois, while the world’s first conceptual museum, has a secret physical presence. (MoB has not gone so metaphysical as to go all ethereal.)

From 8 to 9 PM, CD, the undisclosed location of The Museum of the Bourgeois will go totally non-electric. Won’t make a damn difference, but we at MoB believe in … shall we say, hopeless gestures.

Tune in at 7.45 PM CDT, for appropriate poetry.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In Memory: Arthur C. Clarke

Today is Thursday, 20 March 2008.

The Museum of the Bourgeois mourns infinitely profoundly the death yesterday of Arthur C. Clarke, who with the greatest enrichment informed my life.

The Museum of the Bourgeois mourns deeply the death yesterday of Paul Scofield, whose genius helped shape my life in theatre.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”


Out the window, out the door, I hear, at this instant, with great joy, for the first time since last year, the male frogs singing their songs of hope and love.

The long, insistent trilling, hoping to find a young lady, and endow the world with another generation of persistent frogs.

Life goes on.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Mourning in American

Today is Wednesday, 19 March 2008.

In 2003, the Bush-Cheney-Republican conquest of Iraq commences.

Also, on this date, my father dies.

Later, sorrow for Arthur Clarke.

For the moment, rarely, The Museum of the Bourgeois closes the doors in sorrow.

See you on the flip.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mourning in American

Today is Tuesday, 18 March 2008.

I may or may not have further to say on the following, since it strikes my heart so deeply.

I was off the grid two days ago, 16 March, the 40th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre.

(For you born too late, USA troops in Viet Nam murdered 507+ civilians in cold blood.)

I mourn for the civlians. I mourn for the troops drafted and socialized into a war of murder.

Good morning, Viet Nam!

Good morning, Iraq.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bread and Circuses

Today is Tuesday, 11 March 2008.

Hiring prostitutes is not about sex, it’s about having power over another person.

Thus, it is a quintessential capitalist crime.

It’s one thing to own a car or a house, or a dog or a cat, but it’s entirely another order of things to own a human being for an hour or an evening.

What Eliot Spitzer, governor of New York, did in hiring prostitutes is loathsome.

Due to the prurience of the average American, it leads the newscasts.

And it diverts attention from the continuing Bush-Cheney-Republican Party mass murder in Iraq.

Welcome to ancient Rome.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Welcome to the Republican Recession

Today is Friday, 7 March 2008.

WELCOME TO THE REPUBLICAN RECESSION, Part One. Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of this column.

I say “Republican” recession, rather than “Bush-Cheney” recession, because the current recession is the result of the values of and policies adopted by the Republican Party leadership and accepted by many of their dupes.

What leads me to label our current economic plight a recession?

Word comes today that payrolls have dropped for the second straight month; February’s loss was the greatest in 5 years.

The unemployment rate fell, as yet more people give up on finding jobs, and quit looking altogether. (Much of this can be attributed to employers who try to increase productivity and profits by sweating more work out of existing employees, and hiring temps, rather than creating new positions.)

Fuel costs continue what seems like an inexorable climb. While some of the rise can be attributed to continued expansion in the Chinese and Indian economies, much is due to the radically increased instability in the Middle East, caused by the Republican attempt to conquer and annex Iraq.

Home values continue to fall, caused largely by the global credit squeeze, the real fox in the henhouse.

Last year, and continuing to this date, home equity is below 50%. That is, FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1945, Americans owe more for their homes than they own of them.

Ain’t re-financing and capital extraction a great thing?

One of the consequences of the incredible fluidity of capital in our time, its ability to move almost instantaneously, not just between asset classes within an economy, but between economies on a global scale, is that, when the United States gets a cold, Malawi sneezes. Add to this the explosion over the past two decades of exotic financial instruments (collateralized debt obligations, all manner of credit swaps, etc.) which, while nominally independent, are in practice fantastically interconnected.

A prime example of these is securitized mortgages. Once upon a time, a home buyer received a loan from a bank, which retained the loan on its books unto; it was repaid. Securitization is combining tens of thousands of loans, often of varying quality and credit-worthiness, into pools, which are, in the Wall Street vernacular, “sliced and diced” into tranches (i.e. sections), each tranch being sold individually. The rating agencies went along with the gag, evaluating the securities as AAA, the highest ranking, irrespective of the fact that many of the loans within the tranches were of inferior quality.

(Thus, when the subprime mortgage crisis began to unfold in the USA/USE, The New York Times reported that the budgets of several small Norwegian towns, near the Artic Circle, were in serious jeopardy, since the value of their AAA mortgage-backed securities had fallen steeply.)

Because of the intimate interconnectivity of all these exotic securities, once subprime mortgages began to implode, a domino effect ensued, dragging down the value of all manner of other securities, and leading to the phenomenon of “de-leverage”. In the financial world, “leverage” means debt. If, for example, one wishes to speculate on the movement of the yen, one may plunk down one’s $10,000 on the table and make the bet. If, however, one borrows $90,000 to gamble along with one’s own money, ten times the profit can be made if one has correctly anticipated whether the yen goes up or down. However, if one has anticipated incorrectly, one will lose ten times as much.

Many, if not most, financial institutions, prefer to be as heavily leveraged as possible. This means, however, if the value of that (usually securities) which they have pledged as collateral for their loans declines, they must furnish further collateral to sustain the loan, or lose their initial investment. Presently, a wave of de-leveraging is sweeping through the global economy, as institutions sell off securities and other assets to raise cash to support the leveraged positions they choose to retain.

The credit squeeze occurs as lenders are, wisely, reluctant to lend into declining markets, which latter inevitably increase the number of defaults and bankruptcies.

And what does all this have to do with the Republican Recession?




Remember Ronald Reagan? Once upon a time, he was a President impersonator or something:

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

In Memory: Rosa Luxemburg

Today is Wednesday, 5 March 2007.

On this day in 1871 was born Rosa Luxemburg, Internationalist and socialist labor leader, later cowardly murdered.