Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

miércoles, agosto 31, 2011

Boredom In Alabama

Carl had just gotten back from Vietnam, didn’t have a real job, and was planning to go to Detroit. In the meanwhile, everybody in the neighborhood remembered that Carl was bad. He was bad before he went to Nam, and he was even badder now. Being bad, being tough, putting up with no disrespect, fighting when insulted, being the heir apparent to Booker Thomas, was in the eyes of the neighborhood, good. Not conducive to long life, but nevertheless good. When it came to being bad, Carl was definitely the baddest. It was not even a contest.

Carl sometimes hung out with me when he was bored. He was bored often because there really wasn’t much going on in Madison County. And he didn’t have a car. We smoked cigarettes and drank beer and listened to Otis Redding. One night late, when it was raining hard, Carl, who was, of course, bored, asked me if I’d like to go out to a whiskey house and have some wine. We’d sure enough get fucked up. He was sure I hadn’t been to this particular one, it was way out on the Triana Road, but it was a good one. It had wine and music and women and gambling. And reefer. It was wild, meaning it might be a little rough, but, hey, I’d be with him. This meant that he would not let me get shot or cut or beaten to a pulp. And could I give DayDeen a ride too?

Maybe I could be telling this story in Southern Dialect, but I’m not going to. That seems to create more distractions and arguments than it’s worth. Yes, John Kennedy Toole did that to Burma Jones in A Confederacy Of Dunces, and he was very good at it, I guess, but that was written in 1969, and well, it was probably offensive even then. Not that I necessarily mind offensive. And it made it hard to read. So, no, I’m not going to try to transliterate the North Alabama mumble (1965 version). You just imagine that when the characters speak that’s their primary language and you can’t really understand them, so you frequently respond with “What?” Or “Excuse me?” Or ”Hunh?”

There’s this other, small problem. The two characters’ names. One’s name is Carl, though everybody says it as if it were “coral.” The other’s, DayDeen. He was baptized David Dean. And DayDeen has a nickname, too. He doesn’t need one, but he has one. It is Peelicker, a reference to how crazy and daring he is. This name is often shortened to “Pete.” Anyway, Carl and DayDeen became friends of mine.

I liked Pete. Pete was bad, too, but in a different way. He was crazier. He would listen to the preaching on the radio on a Sunday night. And drink wine. If the preaching wasn’t working for him, he’d change the station. I am not sure what his criteria were. Maybe it was how melodious and exciting the preaching was, as if it were a jazz saxophone solo. The Stevenson Brothers and even Turkey, who was a religious zealot, argued with him about the preaching, but that’s another story.

So at about midnight, Carl and Pete and I got in the old Ford and headed down the road to the whiskey house. It was still raining hard. Frogs were jumping all over the road. Pete insisted that we flash our bright lights so rabbits would run into the road. He wanted to run them over and then eat them. I blinked the lights, but I wouldn’t hit the rabbits. I told him we were going to get drunk and we wouldn’t be able to clean and cook them so it would be a waste.

When we arrived, cars were parked all up and down the edges of the road next to the cotton field. The whiskey house was an ugly, one story cinder block building with a tin roof and bright lights and open doors and windows and lots of people standing under the eaves. You could hear the jukebox thumping, and the sounds of the party: talking and laughing and shouting. It was loud. The jukebox vibrated the building. People were clustered under the eaves, drinking and smoking, and talking and watching the rain.

Carl walked up to the door first. This tended to make people quiet. They knew him. Maybe they didn’t want any trouble, but I doubt it. I followed him. This struck people dumb. What was a skinny white guy with wire rim glasses doing in this particular joint with Carl and DayDeen? Who brought him here? Carl, of course, said nothing. He liked doing the stare. Nobody is going to question Carl. Carl also enjoys giving people that look. The look established, just in case anyone forgot, that he was still as bad as ever, and don’t even ask. About anything. Pete got out of the rain and said as he entered the door, “Well, go on, he’s ok.” This apparently was enough for the assembled multitudes, and the party sputtered back to life.

Carl and I pooled our funds, $2, for two bottles of Wild Russian Vanya, which was kept in a freezer shaped like a coffin. It had to be cold because when it wasn’t it was not potable, it tasted like sweet cough syrup and kerosene. Carl and I sat down on a bench next to the dance floor to get drunk. And to see whether there was anything exciting going on. About one pleasant inch into my bottle, and about 6 inches into Carl’s, a fight broke out of the dance floor. “Are you looking at my woman?” said a man rhetorically as he pushed a larger, stronger man. “And what if I am, motherfucker?” At this the pusher reached into his pants and pulled out a small, shiny gun, waved it around, and pointed it directly in the face of the other guy. “I’m going to shoot the shit out of you,” he reported.

As the gun came out, everybody on the dance floor saw it and immediately scrambled for the doors and windows. The music played on, but the place was a riot of drunk people falling down and pushing into each other and cursing and trying to escape. Unsurprisingly, nobody wanted to get shot. And apparently nobody thought the guy with the gun was much of a marksman. Or maybe they were just concerned about a ricochet in the block building. While the floor emptied, Carl raised his left arm and held it tight against my chest. I couldn’t get up, my back was pinned against the wall. I couldn’t leave. To the man with the pistol, Carl said, “Man, I am not getting up. I am not moving. If you shoot that thing in here and it hits me or gets blood on me, you are one dead motherfucker. I promise.” From the safety of outside, you could hear DayDeen speak, “Man, Carl you are so bad. You better not shoot in there. Carl will definitely kill your ass. For sure. You are going to be one sorry, dead motherfucker if you tangle with Carl.”

At this Mr. Pistol apparently reached an apex of prudence, sobriety and planning. He slowly put the pistol back in his pocket, reared back, and delivered an extremely powerful right hook to the jaw of his adversary. The guy didn’t see it coming. At all. The fist hit him squarely in the middle of his jaw. Smack. He collapsed, hit the floor like a sack of bricks, and lay there motionless, oozing blood. Mr. Pistol gave him a nice kick in the ribs for good measure, turned, and walked slowly out the door cursing all those who would trifle with him and eyeball the person he referred to as his woman.

At this, Carl said, “Well, let’s get out of here in case the cops come. We don’t want to be here.”

On the rainy, two lane drive back to my house, Daydeen again insisted that I flash the lights to make the rabbits run into the road. And Carl said he wanted me to drop him off at the house. Said he, “I’m fixing to go to Detroit. This town is boring.”

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martes, agosto 30, 2011

Honey Boy Edwards, RIP

The New York Times reports:

David Honeyboy Edwards, believed to have been the oldest surviving member of the first generation of Delta blues singers, died on Monday at his home in Chicago. He was 96....

Mr. Edwards’s career spanned nearly the entire recorded history of the blues, from its early years in the Mississippi Delta to its migration to the nightclubs of Chicago and its emergence as an international phenomenon.

Over eight decades Mr. Edwards knew or played with virtually every major figure who worked in the idiom, including Charley Patton, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He was probably best known, though, as the last living link to Robert Johnson, widely hailed as the King of the Delta Blues. The two traveled together, performing on street corners and at picnics, dances and fish fries during the 1930s.

“We would walk through the country with our guitars on our shoulders, stop at people’s houses, play a little music, walk on,” Mr. Edwards said in an interview with the blues historian Robert Palmer, recalling his peripatetic years with Johnson. “We could hitchhike, transfer from truck to truck, or, if we couldn’t catch one of them, we’d go to the train yard, ’cause the railroad was all through that part of the country then.” He added, “Man, we played for a lot of peoples.”

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lunes, agosto 29, 2011

The Bird's Birthday!

Today is Charlie Parker's birthday. Bird would have been 90 today. To honor his memory, there's this wild recording of "Ornithology":

Yow! That is just amazing. I'm gonna spend the day playing it over and over and over. It's that good. Credits:

Charlie Parker, alto sax
Fats Navarro, Trumpet
Bud Powell, Piano
Max Roach, Drums
Bass unknown

Recorded in NYC in May, 1950

There's a story about a guy who had a grey parrot that could sing what Bird plays on this record. He says the bird learned to do it by listening to Bird records. Frankly, I don't believe it's possible. In fact, I don't see how it was possible for Bird to play this.

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How very, very lucky I am. The sun is shining. The electricity is on (it never went off for more than a few blinks). It is cool, and there is a soft breeze. The Punsit Creek has finally found its way back to its bed and is confined with its banks. Yes, it is still roaring, thundering, muddy. But it no longer threatens the driveway or the bridge. Down stream it succeeded in taking out a bridge and the road is closed there. Here things look and feel normal. The windows are open so that the house can dry itself out. Maya the Dog is lying in the yard.

Where yesterday there was rushing, flooding water, today there is nothing but wet grass. The grass and all of the plants have been pulled uniformly flat and combed down, all in the same direction, all neatly pointing downstream. There are still many deep wet spots and puddles. There is lots of mud and silt. There are fresh raccoon and ground hog tracks in the mud. The birds are singing.

And a huge tree like a whale carcass has come from somewhere far upstream and beached itself next to a big sycamore tree. If I don’t like this as ornamental sculpture – I don’t – and I don’t want to wait for the next 250-year flood to come and take it away, I will need to figure out how to move it or dispose of it. Today that does not seem to be a priority.

Many roads are still closed in Columbia County, New York. Some people don't have electricity. And the State of Emergency remain in effect. Emergency Management has urged everyone who can just to stay home so that road crews can clear the roads, repair downed wires, and restore electricity. That's good advise and people seem to be following it.

I hope everyone will be well and safe, that everyone can return swiftly to normalcy.

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domingo, agosto 28, 2011

Four Feet High And Rising

Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, and Pete Seeger:

Spencertown, New York:

11 am:

1 pm:

Stay tuned.

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An Uninvited House Guest

Seems Ms. Irene is coming to lunch at 2 pm. And she's bringing her entourage: rain, wind, flooding, darkness. I didn't invite her. I don't have the usual Sunday brunch ingredients. Long story short, I don't know how to prevent the visit. Or accommodate it. Or at least make it as brief as possible.

The 2 pm dot on the map is where I am. So I know she's definitely coming, and that she's not calling ahead. Did I say that she and her entourage aren't invited?

So far, she has brought lots of rain and not much wind. Everything was saturated before she started to arrive. And of course, the Punsit Creek is flooding. It will probably get much higher in the next few hours. And, of course, it's expected that the wind will pick up around noon.

So I wait for an arrival that will fill the house with wet umbrellas, drenched slickers that smell of violets, and those cruel smiles unwelcome visitors sometimes feel obliged to display.

9 am, Sunday photo


sábado, agosto 27, 2011

Irene, Goodnight

You could coax the storm into the Atlantic with this. As if it were a mantra. Start at the beginning. When you get to the end, well, you just begin again. Repeat until you're finished. The song never ends.


viernes, agosto 26, 2011

Irene: The Hype Deficit

In New York, where Mayor Bloomberg was criticized for failing to make a big deal about an approaching blizzard that blocked ambulance access in certain neighborhoods, the Mayor has made a big deal of the approaching hurricane. In Martha's Vineyard, President Obama made a big deal of the approaching hurricane so that he would not appear to be like W in Katrina, and he actually cut his vacation short to return to Washington.

Meanwhile, in Chatham, Columbia County, New York, 25 minutes southeast of Albany, your Bloguero, a sharp critic of many local customs, decided to go to the Price Chopper Supermarket to purchase PBR and peanut butter. All of the bottled water, D-batteries, crunchy natural peanut butter, and pop tarts are gone. The premium beer is pretty much gone. There was still PBR. Ditto, expensive bread. They hare having very brisk sales, even for a summer Friday.

Says your Bloguero to the Check Out Technician, "So you're having brisk sales because it's the end of the world, right?"

Says she, "Look, these people live in the North. They need to get used to it. They need to chill out."

Your Bloguero,"Do they buy the same stuff whether it's a hurricane or a blizzard?"

Says she, "Of course. I don't know why. I think the radio tells them what to get. They need to chill out."

Then your Bloguero ran into his mother-in-law. She was wandering around in the check out lanes of the Price Chopper searching the racks of batteries. "What are you buying?"

"I'm looking for D-batteries. For my radio."

Your Bloguero notes that he does not have a radio that takes batteries. Maybe he should have one? "Why do you want to listen to the radio?" he asks her.

"So I know what's going on."

"Nothings going on. Why don't you just call me up and I'll tell you what's going on. You won't need the batteries."

"But you don't have a radio, so you won't know what's going on either. You won't be able to tell me."

"If you call me up, I'll make something up. It'll be exciting."

She frowns. Yes, she's tried the Dollar Stores. And hardware stores. And the pharmacies. All of them. She wants batteries. I have no good ideas about where to find them.

Your Bloguero realizes on his journey home that the impending "disaster" has not had the appropriate advanced notice. People are not jumping out of windows. Yet. There is something entirely insufficient about the build up to Hurricane Irene. It's not exciting enough. Yet. Something is lacking to to make Irene a really, really, really big event star. In short, there is a hype deficit. You might think there's enough hype. But your Bloguero knows better. This hurricane is definitely, positively lacking sufficient hype. Your Bloguero thinks they (please do not ask your Bloguero who "they" are) need something more like this:

Much better. Much, much better. Does not Irene deserve such promotion? Tell the truth now. Irene does. No question about it. Your Bloguero inquires: Does someone (please don't ask your Bloguero who someone refers to) have to invent the wheel every damn time some natural disaster is promised? You (please do not ask your Bloguero who "you" refers to) already know how to sell disasters. You've been doing it for half a century, if not more. Isn't it about time to get down to it? Irene won't wait. And she deserves it.

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This Week In The Dream Antilles, Hurricane Edition

An Offering to Chac And Kukulkan


Chaac is the ancient Maya god of rain and lightning. He is usually depicted with a serpentine axe (lightning) in his hand. His body is scaled and reptilian. He is worshipped at sacred wells and cenotes. He is in charge of life-giving rain needed for agriculture. At the dawn of time Chaac split apart a sacred stone with his axe, from which sprung the first ear of maize. When he is not in the clouds, he is near falling waters.

Kukulkan at Chichen Itza

Kukulkan is the ancient Mayan feathered serpent and represents both the Earth's wish to ascend to the sky and sky's descending to Earth. Through Kukulkan chaos becomes order. Kukulkan represents the merging of opposites and the end to dualism.

As I post this, the map of Hurricane Irene seems to have announced the storm’s arrival on the East Coast of the US, between North Carolina and Massachusetts some time this weekend. This is what the computer models are saying:

And so right now an offering (I recommend burning copal and/or sage and/or palo santo and/or a candle or a fire), a petition, a propitiatory prayer seems especially in order, an offering to Chaac, who controls the rain, and Kukulkan, who creates order from chaos, for the safety of all people in the Eastern United States:

May Chac and Kukulkan exercise restraint. May all be safe. May all find shelter. May destruction be averted. May peace prevail. May the rains be moderate. May the wind be temperate. May divine tranquility be preserved. Let it be so!

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is not actually a digest of essays posted in the past week at The Dream Antilles. For that you have to visit The Dream Antilles. Please leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Your Bloguero likes to know you've visited.

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Song For Today

From Buenos Aires. h/t to Cass and blues from down below:

In the three weeks that I have discovered the lovely Sofía Viola, a day hasn´t passed without listening to “Me han robado el mar” (They Stole the Sea from Me) at least once. Only a few nights ago did she celebrate her 22nd and already she has a collection of more than 300 songs - and they are incredible, a little bit of North Andean folklore, mixed with some 1970s American soul, some fierce jazz for good measure, all delivered with a stage presence that is absolutely electric. An essential in order to understand what´s growing in the Argentine music scene.

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jueves, agosto 25, 2011

Earthquack And Irene, Part Deux

Irene remains the big, big, big story in and around Gotham. You’d think there had never been a hurricane on the East Coast before, let alone a Category 3 one, let alone one that was (horror beyond belief) coming this way!!! You’d think a storm was unheard of, some kind of novel, freakish accident. Indeed. MSNBC has even reminded New Yorkers that Long Island is after all, wait for it, an actual island:

"You have to recognize that you're living here on an island, and island living represents certain risks," said Edward Mangano, county executive in Long Island's Nassau County, where school buses were being moved to higher ground in case they're needed to evacuate residents to storm shelters. "And those risks appear now, at least, to be tracking toward us."

“Tracking toward us” is apparently bureaucratic disaster speak for “arriving.” Personally, I’ve never heard of such a thing. An island? I thought Long Island, a corner of the Gothamsfero I avoid at all cost, was a traffic jam.

And they’ve already trotted out that wonderful pre-disaster reporting cliché, “Preparing For The Worst!” Cue the scary music. The storm isn’t supposed to get to New York for a couple of days. So the nadir of disaster reporting has probably not yet arrived. Stay tuned for pictures of empty supermarket shelves, people hammering plywood over windows, and finally some guy in a parka standing in the wind while things that are not tied down blow around.

This is just not getting it for me. I need something like this:

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miércoles, agosto 24, 2011

The Adventures of Earthquack And Irene

Goodness gracious. There’s a 5.8 earthquake in Virginia and the media go absolutely nuts. And then, ut oh! there’s a hurricane coming this way and the media go absolutely nuts. And in their going nuts, the nation’s attention (distracted and unfocused as it already was) is diverted from whatever else might already be on its plate (the Kardashians? Afghanistan? Lindsay Lohan? Japan?) to the dread, the fear, the imminence of (gasp! OMG! OMG! OMG!) yet another (shudder) Natural Disaster. Apparently, the Nation’s virtually insatiable taste for Human Created Disasters of all descriptions is going to be given a brief rest, a time out, and a small plate of ND to cleanse the nation’s already sated palate before it again continues gorging on new and old HCDs. And, of course, this ND (gasp! OMG! OMG! OMG!) simply cannot possibly measure up the recent, memorable, enormous NDs that were enhanced by HCDs, namely Katrina, etc. Or to HCDs that were enhanced by NDs, namely the BP Spill. And so, the Nation is sure to be sorely disappointed yet again. They don’t make NDs and HCDs the way they used to. Heavens no. In 1953 they knew a thing or two about NDs and HCDs:

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martes, agosto 23, 2011


Alejandro Zambra’s novella “Bonsai” won the Chilean Critics Award for best novel of the year in 2006. And Mercurio wrote, "The publication of Bonsai ... marked a kind of bloodletting in Chilean literature. It was said (or argued) that it represented the end of an era, or the beginning of another, in the nation's letters." That is quite a metaphor for a first, small novella. It deserves praise.

“Bonsai” (this will not surprise) is very small. 90 pages. And when digressions begin to grow, they are immediately pruned. Characters are marked as irrelevant and quickly dropped. Curves in the plot are truncated. The result is spare and beautiful. You can read it all in an afternoon. But it continues to grow afterward.

There is no spoiler here. Just a wonderful part of the story for you to savor.

At one point, Emilio and Julio, begin to read Macedonio Fernandez’s story “Tantalia" together. Zambra writes:

”Tantalia” is the story of a couple that decides to buy a small plant and keep it as a symbol of the love that unites them. They realize too late that if the plant dies, the love that unites them will die with it. And as the love that unites them is immense and they are not willing to scacrifice it for any reason, they decide to lose the little plant in a multitude of identical little plants. Later comes the despair, the misfortune of knowing they will never be able to find it.

She and he, Macedonio’s characters, had and lost a little plant of love. Emilia and Julio – who are not exactly characters, though maybe it’s convenient to think of them as characters – have been reading before shagging for months, it is very pleasant, they think, and sometimes they think it at the same time: it is very pleasant, it is beautiful to read and talk about the reading just before tangling legs. It’s like doing exercise.

It isn’t always easy to find, in the texts, some impetus, however small, to shag, but in the end they manage to locate a paragraph or verse that, when whimsically stretched or perverted works for them, gets them hot. (They liked that expression, to get hot, that’s why I use it. They liked it almost enough to get hot from it.)

But this time it was different.

I don’t like Macedonio Fernandez anymore, Emilia said, shaping her sentences with inexplicable timidity, a she caressed Julio’s chin and mouth.

And Julio: Me neither. I enjoyed it, I liked him a lot, but not anymore. Not Macedonio.

Bonsai, Zambrano tells us, is the tree with its container. If the container is removed, the plant is no longer Bonsai. So with this beautiful story: its confinement makes it all the more startling, all the more alive, all the more unusual.

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viernes, agosto 19, 2011

This Week's Blues In The Dream Antilles

Elmore James (1918-1963). A Bluesman and poet whose work your Bloguero admires. It’s work that holds up extraordinarily well after 50 years.

But, Sr. Bloguero, with all due respect, you might ask, what’s Elmore James got to do with this, which is supposed to be your weekly digest? Your Bloguero could answer this with an elaborate, very contorted, ontological exploration of the theretical connections between the Blues and Haiku, between Elmore James and Basho. But, no. It’s not an intellectual exercise. No. It’s just something your Bloguero would like you to hear and enjoy. It’s that simple. Your Bloguero plays it over and over and over again. Then he enjoys thinking about how very good, how very powerful, how eloquent it is. And then he seeks other pieces that are in their own way as powerful. Your Bloguero is quite confident that he knows a few.

What comes immediately to mind is Son House (1902?- 1988) . Sometimes far less is definitely much more:

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is not actually a digest of essays posted in the past week at The Dream Antilles. For that you have to visit The Dream Antilles. Please leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Or, even easier, just click the "Encouragement jar"if there is one. Your Bloguero likes to know you’ve visited.

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jueves, agosto 18, 2011

Concentration Moon

1968. Frank Zappa. Jimmy Carl Black ("I'm the Indian of the group"). The Mothers of Invention. "Absolutely Free." I liked this then. I like it now. But I wonder.

How could everything seem so clear back then and be so opaque now? To be frank, I have no idea.

And then there's this:

What could we have been thinking?

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According to Flavorwire, here are the thirty harshest author-on-author insults in history. Truth is they are incredibly clever. But I cannot believe that this is all. I'm sure there are others that are even more devastating. Even more witty.

An quick example from the list:

15. William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

14. Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

Enjoy. At least they're not saying those things about you. Or, on the other hand, maybe it's too bad that they're not.

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martes, agosto 16, 2011

How Your Hearts Ache

It must have been a dream. I was in a very dry, very quiet place. Is this the Atacama Desert in Chile? I am not sure. The days are broiling and the sun is blinding. During the day the sky is perfectly blue and cloudless. The nights are freezing and there are millions of stars. As soon as the sun sets, the temperature plummets. There is little vegetation. None of it is green. There are many snakes and scorpions. I am sunburned on the top of my head, and my body is freezing despite the fire. Despite a blanket. I do not understand how we have fuel for a fire. Is it wood? Is it dung? I don’t know. My companions, who appear to be Aymara people, joke about how ill suited I am for this place, their home. Wrong color. Wrong shape. Wrong age. Hands too soft. Feet not hard enough. Very unusual person for here. They are sympathetic to my discomfort. Their kidding is all good natured, a sign of their affection, a part of our being here together. As we sit, they sing songs. The songs are all about rain, even though it has probably never rained in this spot. Ever. Why, I ask them, are all their songs about rain? An old man sitting next to me smiles at the question. “We sing about what we don’t have.” Why, I wonder, are almost all of the songs in the place of my birth about love? The old man sees the sadness appear on my face. “You don’t sing about rain where you come from,” he says. “You must have rain.” He looks up at the stars. “No. Do you sing instead about how your hearts ache?” I nod. He touches me on the shoulder.

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domingo, agosto 14, 2011

Binyavanga Wainaina

is the name of this consummate Kenyan writer, and "“One Day I Will Write About This Place" is the new book. The New York Times Book Review by Alwxandra Fuller gets right to the point:

Harried reader, I’ll save you precious time: skip this review and head directly to the bookstore for Binyavanga Wainaina’s stand-up-and-cheer coming-of-age memoir, “One Day I Will Write About This Place.” Although written by an East African and set in East and Southern Africa, Wainaina’s book is not just for Afrophiles or lovers of post­colonial literature. This is a book for anyone who still finds the nourishment of a well-­written tale preferable to the empty-­calorie jolt of a celebrity confessional or Swedish mystery.

Wainaina's real life thing is reading. And writing. And this is his memoir. A sample after he drops out of the university to read:

“Over the past year,” he writes, “as I fell away from everything and everybody, I moved out of the campus dorms and into a one-room outhouse. . . . My mattress has sunk in the middle. Books, cigarettes, dirty cups, empty chocolate wrappers and magazines are piled around my horizontal torso, on the floor, all within arm’s reach. If I put my mattress back on the bunk I am too close to the light that streams in from the window, so I use the chipboard bunk as a sort of scribble pad of options: butter, a knife, peanut butter and chutney, empty tins of pilchards, bread, a small television set, many books, matches and a sprawl of candles, all in various stages of undress and disintegration.”

And so the book chronicles Wainaina's unwillingness, which he apparently treats not as his choice, but as his inability to do anything except read. Pause at that point. I did. What, I wonder, would have happened to me all those decades ago if I had made the same choice? And look at the enormous array of reasons, real and imagined, theoretical and economic that arose and made it a "bad choice" to do so. Wainaina apparently didn't have the same issues. And he certainly didn't cave in to them. And the results have been remarkable. Fuller explains:

Wainaina was catapulted into the literary spotlight when his autobiographical novella “Discovering Home” was awarded the 2002 Caine Prize, sometimes called “the African Booker.” The work arose from a long, late-night e-mail to a friend, and it retains an unedited familiarity. “There is a problem,” it begins. “Somebody has locked themselves in the toilet. The upstairs bathroom is locked and Frank has disappeared with the keys. There is a small riot at the door, as drunk women with smudged lipstick and crooked wigs bang on the door."

Wainaina followed up that success with “How to Write About Africa,” a provocative essay that appeared in Granta in 2005. “In your text,” he wrote, “treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: 54 countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book.”

That's enough for me. Time to head for Barnes and Noble and get reading.

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sábado, agosto 13, 2011

Work As Poetry

How can any self respecting lit blog miss the appointment of Philip Levine as poet laureate? Well, this one did.

The official announcement has this gem:

Levine has said about writing poems in his mid-20s during his factory days:

"I believed even then that if I could transform my experience into poetry, I would give it the value and dignity it did not begin to possess on its own. I thought, too, that if I could write about it I could come to understand it; I believed that if I could understand my life—or at least the part my work played in it—I could embrace it with some degree of joy, an element conspicuously missing from my life."

To atone for this embarrassing omission, here is a lovely poem, "Work," which you can hear the poet himself read if you click the button on this page.


We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.

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viernes, agosto 12, 2011

You Cannot Make This Stuff Up

The other day, Mitt Romney, presidential hopeful and the candidate with the nicest clothing (male division), said in New Hampshire that corporations were people. This generated howls of outrage.

The New York Times reports that's Mitt's story and he's sticking to it:

Mitt Romney says his recent comment in Iowa that "corporations are people" was not a mistake.

Speaking to reporters after a New Hampshire reception Friday night, the former Massachusetts governor said it was astonishing that President Barack Obama doesn't feel the same way.

Romney repeated several times that "businesses are people." He asked whether Democrats believed they were perhaps little men from Mars.

The comments came at Romney's first public appearance since Thursday's Iowa debate. Earlier that day, he first made the comment about corporations to a heckler at a state fair.

Amazing. I suppose Mitt is opposed to corporations marrying each other. Does he understand that "business" does not mean the same thing as "corporation?"

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This Week In The Dream Antilles

A week of economic fear. And fighting in England’s streets. An anxious week. Your Bloguero heard (do not ask how) that sometimes chefs lose their sense of taste. This is called ”ageusia.” And writers, if they are similarly afflicted by a professional malady, what might they lose? What a disturbing thought. Alas, your Bloguero is relieved to state that he was wrong to propose the analogy: the loss does not come from tasting too many of one’s own concoctions. Not at all. It is neurological. It has other causes. Completely. Regardless, and if you will excuse his beginning this essay with these worrisome inner thoughts, your Bloguero will offer an excuse explanation. This Friday he is tired of reading is own written words. And he fears the consequences to his remaining sanity of continues to spew them. What will he lose if he presses on? He’s not going to find out. No way. He will take the weekend off. He will begin again next week, after the Ides of August.

But not to fear. Or be disappointed. This essay is not about to peter out and become wordless because of your Bloguero’s hypochondria. No. Your Bloguero has found remarkable words of Eduardo Galeano for you to contemplate:

On the shores of another sea, an old potter retires.

His eyes cloud over, his hands tremble, the hour to say goodbye has arrived. Then the ceremony of initiation begins: the old potter offers the young potter his best piece. As tradition dictates among the Indians of northwest America, the outgoing artist gives his masterwork to the incoming one.

And the young potter doesn’t keep that perfect vase to contemplate or admire: he smashes it on the ground, breaks it into a thousand pieces, picks up the pieces, and incorporates them into his own clay.

Walking Words (1993).

Isn’t that wonderful?

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is not actually a digest of essays posted in the past week at The Dream Antilles. For that you have to visit The Dream Antilles. Please leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Or, even easier, just click the "Encouragement jar". Your Bloguero likes to know you’ve visited.

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Stanley Bosworth, RIP

The NY Times reports:

Stanley Bosworth, a self-described “old wizard” who shaped his own Hogwarts in Brooklyn in the form of Saint Ann’s School, which rapidly gained national prominence for its free-form approach to education and its success in sending graduates to top colleges, died on Sunday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 83....

As the founding headmaster of Saint Ann’s, Mr. Bosworth envisioned an academically rigorous school for the gifted, from pre-school through high school, with no grades and few rules. Along with standard courses like Shakespeare and Chinese, there are puppetry classes. For years, the school had a smoking lounge for students. Its own literature calls the place an “amusement park” whose attractions were Aristophanes, Darwin and Baudelaire. ...

Mr. Bosworth was selected to head the school when St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn Heights started it in 1965 as a way to attract parishioners. He created an admissions process using intelligence tests and based partly on the administrators’ intuition. He acquired a building at 129 Pierrepont Street, started a preschool, made the school independent from the church in 1982 and engendered what the school hails as “creative chaos.” He made it a practice to fly out of state to personally deliver students’ portfolios to colleges.

Mr. Bosworth’s expansive, scampish personality was stamped everywhere, so much so that it was common to speak of a cult of personality at the school. He called his preschoolers “funny, wooly creatures,” and predicted that Saint Ann’s would produce 10 percent of America’s poets.

He will be remembered and missed.

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The haiku famine
of sad twenty eleven:
No big words are left.

Cobble together
many undernourished words.
They are still hungry.



miércoles, agosto 10, 2011

Rant: The Jobs!! Part II

Yesterday I had a blogsplosion. I erupted at the idiots in both parties and the media who claimed that the deficit was oh so very important. And who, at the same time, said that jobs, well they’re going to pivot to jobs (what a reptilian metaphor) someday once the flashing, beeping red-alert about the so-called national deficit emergency (NDE) has been extinguished. And who would slay this debt dragon? The legislation set up its own blue ribbon collection (BRC) of very well dressed, very nicely coifed people, all of whom flunked Econ. Deck chairs, meet the Titanic. And if the BRC fail? Ah. Then the NDE will be “solved” automatically on the backs and on the kitchen tables and hospital beds of the poorest Americans. This stick (is it really some else’s carrot?) assures that the BRC will work and negotiate and compromise and fix the NDE. What a pathetic, cynical joke. Repeating it is enough to make me explode (again). What kind of moron thought of this?

Today, after I calmed down a little bit (thank you PBR), I watched philosophically as the Stock Market fell 519.98 points to 10,719.79, reflecting my view, and the assessment of investors that the US economy was not in very good hands and that NDE wasn’t the big problem du jour. Nope. Nor was Europe the big problem de hoy. No. The big problem, the obvious, enormous, peanut breathed problem filling the entire room is that the economy is contracting, and Congress and the President are clearly taking steps to make it, wait for it, contract even faster. I suspect that Warren Buffet’s AAAAAAA rating of the US economy might need some serious revision. Maybe the President’s Economic Advisers should be given a D in macroeconomics. I also suspect that investors (many of whom passed Econ 101) know that the light at the end of this particular tunnel is really the looming double dip depression freight train highballing this way at full throttle. In fact, they probably know that the train is accelerating and is now way ahead of schedule for the next station stop because it’s not the NDE that’s the problem, it’s the lack of jobs. They know that there are no jobs. And they know that the Government is moving to contract the economy so that there will be even fewer jobs. And they know that persistent, long term unemployment is going to become a continued fact of life impoverishing the United States. Why? Because nobody in Government is moving to do what? To create jobs. They’re on a fool’s errand about NDE, something that is almost totally irrelevant. I hear my voice rising, I can tell that frogs and toads are again going to start leaping out of my mouth and that I’m going to make even great use of the 12-letter M curse. I know. I know. This is, after all, a “family blog.” Let me just repeat my point clearly and unemotionally and slowly: it’s jobs that are needed and the Government is taking steps that contract the economy and actually make there be fewer jobs.

I don’t want to obscure this next point by again dramatically setting my hair on fire and screaming curses and spinning my head all the way around as I did yesterday. No. I want to try to remain calm. Controlled. Analytical. Credible, if you will. While the commentators and bipartisan politicians are explaining how the BRC will fix the NDE, maybe you’ve noticed that there’s an important question that’s not being asked of them. That question is this:

“Let’s leave out the fuzzy math and talk about the concepts for a second. Assuming that the NDE is “fixed” by dramatic reductions in Government spending (or increased revenue or both), leading to a contraction in the size of Government, how exactly will fixing the NDE lead to more jobs? Can you explain to me how that will happen?”

Nothing said in response to this question will make any sense. I guarantee it. Why? Because ending the NDE will not create jobs. Not a single one. It will contract the economy and the result will be even fewer jobs. You think 9.2% official unemployment is high? Hah. You ain’t seen nothing yet. If the Government were trying to set a world record for unemployment stats, these policies are the very ones they should continue to follow.

I know. I know. It’s so dismal. It’s so depressing. There’s no hope here, no change. It’s a disaster. Don’t you feel like Chicken Little? There’s nothing that can be done. Wrong. There is something.

The President and the Congress have to pivot (their word, not mine) and say in words or substance,

“This isn’t working. We’re not doing what we need to do to grow the economy and to create jobs. And now we’re going to do it, even though we were embarked on a different course before now.”

Are they going to say that this week? Not likely. But that’s not the end of this either. Maybe you and I should be going all out to demand that they pass a real jobs bill, one with a real stimulus, one that will really bring jobs back. Maybe this is something worth fighting about. I think it is.

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martes, agosto 09, 2011

Rant: The Jobs!!

Please forgive me in advance for this rant. I am trying to “take care of my anger,” as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, but I’m failing. My hair is totally on fire, and every time I open my mouth firey red toads and pimpled orange frogs jump out. I find myself shouting. At the radio, at the TV, at the computer. I find myself calling people defamatory names wrapped in vast streams of expletives and insults. This is not good, enlightened Buddhist behavior. I apologize for it. My frustration with the prevailing stupidity has taken my breath away and turned me at long last into a complete raving lunatic.

The short of this (if I can stop yelling and calm down at all): Unemployment is at 9.1 per cent this week, down from 9.2 per cent the week before. That is not an improvement because the .1% doesn’t keep up with population growth. You can package this .1% manure as a gift and cover it with whipped cream, but it’s never going to be a dessert. We need jobs. Badly. And we need to cut the barnyard excrement about that and focus on making jobs.

We need jobs. I turn on the television and I see the President and the commentators and the well dressed, nice haircut people of both parties linking arms and saying together that the big problem is the deficit. And that poor and middle class people need to do their fair share (what a joke) so that the deficit can be closed. And we'll have a "balance approach" to the deficit. If the deficit were eliminated, they sing, things would be so much better. What? Are you (expletive deleted) kidding me? They have to be kidding, don’t they? Evidently not. It’s a cruel, stupid, unpalatable, evil joke. And it is arrant stupidity. If spending is cut, the economy shrinks, and guess what, jobs are lost. Cutting the deficit is not job creation, it is just the opposite. Cutting the deficit does NOT create jobs. I curse the TV, turn it off, and stomp over to my faithful computer.

I turn to the Internet. I see that Sen. McCaskill (no, I’m not giving her a link) admits that there’s not going to be a jobs bill in Congress this year. Yeah, we need jobs, but we can’t do a jobs bill. Well, why not? Because spending money, any money, even money guaranteed to create jobs cannot pass the present Congress. No? Why not? Because the consensus is that the problem is the deficit, and since taxes cannot be raised (no, no, no) spending has to be cut. There you have it. How else, they question, are we going to fix the deficit? So, long story extra short, we cannot spend money to create jobs, because when we spend money it increases the deficit. Let me repeat: Cutting the deficit is not job creation, it is just the opposite. I push my chair away from the keyboard. I throw the wireless mouse on the floor. I use the all-purpose 12-letter M curse. Loudly. I mutter various obscenities. The dog hides under the table. I look in vain for a beer in the refrigerator.

I find myself yelling at the beerless refrigerator. The 12-letter M curse first. Loud. Again. Then more muttering: Did all of these (expletive deleted) people decide not to take Economics 101? Or did they just (expletive deleted) flunk it? Or are they in the thrall, the evil trance of the (many, many expletives deleted) Chicago School of Voodoo Economics? Look, I’m no Paul Krugman (you can sure as dung say that again), but it’s quite clear: the Government has to spend money, a lot of money if it is going to spur job creation. It’s that simple. In other words, the Government has to do exactly the opposite of what Obama and the Congress and the commentators and the media are all saying in unison needs to be done.

Forget the (expletive deleted) deficit. Just forget about it. Completely. Spend money, doesn’t matter where you get it, to create good jobs. I’m not trying to be contrarian. No. I’m just screaming at the world, at me, at the TV, the refrigerator and the computer, that if jobs are ever going to be increased in the US of A, the Government’s only effective, proven strategy is fiscal policy and that, amig@s, means spending money. All this hoo hah about the Fed, about monetary policy is all very nice. A day late, more than a dollar short. And far too weak to break the current phase of long term unemployment and economic contraction. The deficit and “fixing” it by slashing government spending is a sure way to increase unemployment. Did you hear that, I'm yelling? You're going to make it worse you (string of expletives deleted).

If the Government would spend enough money to stimulate the economy (as compared to the (expletive deleted) token barnyard excrement bills it has passed recently) and really get unemployment down to a couple of pathetic percentage points, that itself it would generate enough taxes to start closing the deficit. And we wouldn't have to continue this stupid debate about how to decrease the deficit: cut spending, increase taxes, balance approach, etc etc. We could focus on something that is urgently needed and will alleviate vast oceans of suffering. We could focus on jobs.

Please. I’m noticing that I’m starting to yell again. I have to breathe audibly to keep from shouting at the keyboard. Let me try. Put simply: job creation is how to fix the deficit. And to create jobs the Government needs to spend money. It is that simple. Anybody who contradicts this is quite simply and most assuredly wrong.

I feel my face turning red. I feel that my breathing is too fast. My hair is on fire. It’s as if I were in a room with 250 million people and I’m the only one who speaks only Spanish. All the other people speak other languages, but no Spanish. This is frustrating. I cannot understand why raising my voice and shouting and screaming and banging on the table doesn’t make what I’m saying comprehensible. Undeterred, I yell on. I’m well aware that this is the definition of insanity, but know what? I don’t know what else to do.

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lunes, agosto 08, 2011

Confidence Game

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. So the market is super volatile, and way, way down, and well,investors don't have a lot of confidence in the Government's ability to turn the economy or the deficit around. No kidding. How could they?

This is quite odd, because for decades Republican politicians have been making believe that business, left to its own profit motive, would grow the economy, and that the dreaded Government should stay the hell out of it. Yes, Sir. Give them businesses more tax breaks. Give them businesses more incentives. They'll show you how well good old US gumption and persistence works. They'll turn the economy around. Just you wait and see. How dare you talk about reinstitution of the old tax rates. How dare you talk about the need for stimulus and extension of unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks. Right. Republicans talk like that until everything is apparently going down the tubes. Like today.

Then, miraculously, it's about Government. The economic crisis is all about the Government. This is laughable. The Republicans gave the nation an enormous wedgie last week. It was not a surprise. That's what they've been doing for 2.5 years. And now they're making believe that they didn't do it. Nope. Never. All of this, well, it happened without their help. But now it's the Government, the one they wanted to drown in the bathtub, that's supposed to find the way out of this.

Apparently, there are no anti-Keynsians in the fox holes. Especially when they're losing their shirts.


domingo, agosto 07, 2011

E-Trade Baby's Cautionary Tale About Investing

(Note: This is not going to be around very long. Guaranteed).

Isn't it amazing how after last week we won't hear about the Bushian idea of privately investing retirement and social security funds in the stock market again? For about a month. Six weeks at the most. By then we will have forgotten. Or we'll be living in refrigerator boxes under the bridge and won't have TV access.

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sábado, agosto 06, 2011

The Sixth Blogaversary!!

Time for your Bloguero to uncork some digitized champagne and bust out the pixilated caviar! It’s the 6th Anniversary of The Dream Antilles! Let the party begin!

On August 7, 2005, your Bloguero put up the first post. And here he is six years later still hammering away at the keyboard. Lo and behold, this is post number 1,099.

Your Bloguero believes you are reading this. He doesn’t know for sure that you are here. Actually, he has no idea whether you’re reading or how many readers have visited. Or who has read what. Or when. Why? In a moment of self righteous indignation several years ago, your Bloguero deleted all the web counters. Good riddance, he said. “I’m doing this whether or not anybody reads it,” he announced pompously. Later, much later your Bloguero caved in to his own curiosity about you. Were you really there? Were you really reading? Of course, he wouldn’t admit that it mattered to him. So he quietly put up the map with the dots (you can still find it near the bottom of the right column) so he could see you. If you read The Dream Antilles a tiny dot appears where you are and it stays there for a while. Your Bloguero still likes the dots, particularly when people of every continent visit. Other than that small reassurance that you are there, your Bloguero writes The Dream Antilles on the faith that you read it. This faith is not rock solid. Far from it. Sometimes your Bloguero has towering doubts. He imagines that he might be standing on the pitcher’s mound in a completely empty Yankee Stadium making believe the seats were filled with people paying rapt attention to him and laughing at his jokes and understanding what he is telling them. Sometimes your Bloguero doesn’t care that all the seats might be empty and that newspapers are blowing around in the infield and that the PA system is turned off and pigeons are swooping in from the eves. Banishing the emptiness from his consideration, your Bloguero declaims that the blog is a writing practice. And your Bloguero is another Eveready Bunny. He does it for himself, he says. Really? You ask. Yes, sure, and your Bloguero’s obvious vanity? Hah! Your Bloguero never claimed he was so perfect. So free from doubt.

Thank you for visiting. And thank you for reading.


viernes, agosto 05, 2011

Marco Fabian's Bicycle Golaso!

I love Barca and I hate it when they lose. But this, this is something else entirely. This is just brilliant. Play it over and over again.

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BREAKING: This Week At The Dream Antilles

Washington- President Obama today announced sweeping changes in US economic policy that would guarantee full employment by the end of 2012 and resolution of the nation’s deficit. The Executive Order, issued while Congress was on summer vacation, was an enormous surprise even though it was apparent that the move had been planned for months. The extensive, 450 page Executive Order primarily addresses employment and taxation.

Following the announcement, the President’s Press Secretary Jay Carney was overheard to say, “We’re not going to allow Republicans to continue act like two-year olds who have not mastered toilet training. We are not going to let them turn America into an open air septic tank. This is how we have had to do that.”

The stock market responded to the announcement by recording its largest single hourly advances in history.

Your Bloguero could continue to tell the story. He could tell you how the President had authorized billions and billions of dollars to be spent immediately on infrastructure, including rail systems and wind power, to stimulate employment. And how he had required banks immediately to refinance mortgages and to forgive student loan debts. And your Bloguero could tell you how the President had exercised his emergency powers to restore the income tax rate on America’s wealthiest people to 1955 levels and had reversed decade's old cuts to food stamps and welfare benefits, and how he had increased and extended unemployment benefits. And how he had closed Guantanamo and recalled all of the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and guaranteed their employment in a peacetime economy. He could describe for you how the President had thumped his podium and said,

“This is a national emergency in our economy, and I am exercising my executive powers to preserve our Nation. I am not going to stand idly by. I am enacting these policies now because the nation can no longer bare its pain, and it can no longer depend on this dysfunctional Congress to save the economy from depredation. To the contrary, Congress’s actions have thrust the nation into this crisis, and they refuse contumaciously to reverse themselves. No. The buck stops here. We've had enough political theatre and enough posturing. I have acted to end a national emergency. And I assure you, these aggressive steps will end it. Enough talk. Let's get to work.”

Alas. Tell me lies. Your Bloguero cannot bare the truth.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is not actually a digest of essays posted in the past week. For that you have to visit The Dream Antilles. Your Bloguero always solicits your support. No, not your money. Just leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Or, even easier, just click the "Encouragement jar". Your Bloguero likes to know that you're visiting.

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jueves, agosto 04, 2011

Air Goes Of Out Stock Market

Evidently, investors do not think much of the "debt ceiling compromise," or its affects on global markets. So we have a the NY Times talking about fears of a "double dip recession," and even more joblessness. Gloom and helplessness prevail. A 500+ point drop in DJIA. The worst drop since fabled 2008. And just wait till tomorrow. Nice job, Brownie Congress.

The answer, the step that might turn around the economy might be found in stimulus. In spending money. But as I said before, how can you stimulate anything when you won't spend any new money AND when you insist on cutting spending that is already inadequate to fuel the recovery. Does anybody here understand macroeconomics at all? Doubtful.

Hey, Congress, how are all those jobs created by tax cuts working out for you? Calling what Congress has done "voodoo economics" understates the stupidity. How about "economic suicide?

Congress is on vacation. At least they won't be able to enact other measures to plunge the economy further into darkness until they get back. Thank heavens for small favors.

What idiots. I hope they enjoy their summer vacations.

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martes, agosto 02, 2011

Look, Ma, No Spending!

Please excuse my brevity. Please riddle me this, if you can: if the US Government cannot raise taxes and has no additional money to spend for an economic stimulus program and/or job programs, how exactly can the government address the current chronic joblessness?

Maybe you have an answer. My tentative answer: it cannot. The unemployed and those who will soon be unemployed are screwed. The Government has made it impossible to spend its way to job creation. And there is no other job creation device.

I omit the stats that show how dire unemployment is in the US. That just makes this problem a quantitative one. It doesn’t address the lack of a program, the lack of a plan, the lack of an idea. Let’s focus, if we can stand to do so, on the concepts. This is really nothing more than Economics 101. The Government is cutting spending and is now committed to decreasing its spending. It is not raising taxes. Where, if anywhere, can it get the funds to spend to get people employed? Answer: sadly, it cannot.

John Maynard Keynes is rolling over in his grave. If the Government cannot spend funds to create a stimulus program, or a WPA or a CCC, or even to sustain unemployment insurance benefits to those who are chronically unemployed and will exhaust their benefits, and if interest rates are already really, really low so that monetary policy provides no solution whatsoever, exactly how does the US Government address unemployment? My answer: it cannot. It has emasculated itself.

You may disagree. You may think that somehow, remarkably, Democrats or economists in general have a silver bullet that will turn the unemployment statistic around. And create jobs. And end the suffering. I don’t believe that. What am I missing? My answer: not very much.

I hate to get ahead of myself. What’s the answer to the question I’m posing. And why aren’t unemployed people and their allies (namely, me) marching on Washington?

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lunes, agosto 01, 2011

Words Still Matter

A humble request. Stop saying, “Entitlement reform.” Just stop it. Never, never, never repeat those two words again in tandem. Say instead, “Efforts to subvert the safety net.” Or “Cutting Social Security and Medicare Benefits.” Those have a plain meaning. Those words do not denote a “reform.” These words we use need to explain that this is, in fact, a regression, an atavism. Please use appropriate, accurate words to describe phenomena.

And stop talking also about “raising revenues” and “imposing new taxes.” Just stop that. Always say, “Ending the Bush era tax cuts.” And say, “Restoring tax rates to their previous levels.” And say, “Making billionaires and corporations pay their fair share.” These uber-rich people are flying their children to summer camps in Maine in private airplanes, and you’re just encouraging them to continue to take advantage of everyone when you use language that obscures the ugly facts that they don't pay the right amount of taxes. The ugly facts are that 90% of the wealth in the US is owned by 10% of the population. And that 10% won't be satisfied until their squeeze the last nickel out of the rest of us. These people, this 10%, these fat porkers need to be taxed. And hard. But their minions, the Congresspeople they hired to help them loot the rest of us, and the PR agents they hired to run the Traditional Media to make it seem benign, won't hear about that. No. They're stuck in their "new speak." They are working for their employers. Please do not use those oft repeated, bland, undesirable phrases, "raising revenue" and "imposing new taxes" any more. That just helps these porkers suck up even more that they do not deserve.

It’s bad enough that the Democrats are throwing the Left under a bus (again) and supporting and voting for the most regressive economic measures since 1929 (read: ever). The Democrats who vote for these measures are identical in all pertinent respects to the Republicans who sponsored them. It would help, before you and I start eating cat food and wondering why we can’t borrow any money or find a job or pay for medical care or dentistry and why gas is $5 a gallon, at the very least to rescue plain language from Republican cant and their misleading, capitalist smokescreen. How else can we make our pain understood?

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