Sep 26, 2008

WaMu Fails. But not its CEO

THIS JUST IN: Washington Mutual Fails, JP Morgan takes over.

WaMu's outgoing CEO, who was on the job for ALL OF THREE WEEKS, could leave with 11.6 million dollars.

$11.6 million for three weeks. Let's say he put in 60 hours a week. That's $64,444 an hour. Okay say he put in 12 hours a day, seven days a week. He'll be making $46,031 an hour.

I am beginning to understand why the french stormed the Bastille and the Bolsheviks killed all those kossaks.

Sep 25, 2008

Bail Out: Cash for Trash

Eugene Oregon Congressman tells Washington like it is.

Preach it, brother.

Sep 19, 2008

Confusing Economy Explained

I'm a fan of Terrie Gross's program FRESH AIR. I get it free via podcast. She's always got great interviews with artist and writers, politicians and economists. I've learned a lot about the world listening to her show. I know very little about economics and less about Wall Street. But I thought these two episodes are crucial for everyone to hear.

Our Confusing Economy, Explained
(April 3, 2008)
Was Adult Supervision Needed On Wall Street (September 17, 2008)

If you don't understand how we've gotten into this horrible financial state, it's not merely because of the people who took out sub-prime mortgages. It's because of Wall Street (creating risky investment products to sell those mortgages) and the Congress that abetted them.

In December, 2000, the Republican Congress passed a bill in the dead of night which deregulated various new, risky investment products ... by deregulating them, these products could be bought and sold without any accounting ledger. Take for example these sub prime mortgages. They bundled thousands of mortgages together, got them rated by bond rating companies (who are paid to rate them well, so it's kind of a conflict of interest) and then sold them in a new product called a "structured investment." hey're structured like an iceberg. the small top of the investment looks good, so it gets an A Rating. But there's a whole behemoth of danger below the surface. Here's a detailed look at Moody Bond raters and the subprime meltdown. Then there are "Credit Default Swaps," which are a kind of very risky insurance ... But if you called it insurance, it would have to be regulated -- you know, require oversight and accountability -- so they called them something else, and Congress got the bill passed in the middle of the night so no one sane would protest. That would suggests they knew it was risky and might not pass muster in the light of day.

The Republican fiscal philosophy supports a free market economy, unfettered by government control. It has worked well for the American economy in some respects. But our current problem lies in not enough oversight. For the past 8 years, these ridiculously risky products have been sold -- privately, deregulated, no bookkeeping, no paper trail. The government would love to have a spreadsheet to find out how much money changed hands, how much was lost .... but they are private securities, and there is no paper trail. And now we have what we have on Wall Street. The government had to bail out AIG or we'd be facing a Depression.

Privatized profit, socialized debt. Private wheeler dealers reaped the early profits. Now the society is going to pay for it, in taxes (But not big companies or the rich; they get loopholes. Just the average Joe). That's how our government is structured today.

I'm not naive. I don't think massive government is the answer. I don't believe we can create a program for every issue known to man, then demand the government pay for it. I don't believe in taking money from hard-working people and giving it to slackers who don't want to work. But it seems like a lot of people on wall street made money at our expense.

I highly recommend Wednesday's podcast, still free and available on iTunes; as well as the archive of April 3. It will be an education. A terrifying and fascinating horror story.

Our Confusing Economy, Explained
(April 3, 2008)
Was Adult Supervision Needed On Wall Street (September 17, 2008)

Sep 18, 2008

I Hate Politics

I've heard some people say they don't hate God, they just hate religion. To which I say, well you may hate politics, but you still need some system of government: someone to pick up your trash.

And then I hear trash like this on the radio: Sara Palin twisted Joe Biden's words around ... "Joe Biden thinks raising taxes is patriotic? Well I don't know about you, but I think raising taxes hurts America! It kills small businesses!" Then they played what Biden actually said. "It's time for the RICH to do the patriotic thing and PAY TAXES." Because they don't. They have loopholes.

If Palin really were a Christian she would obey the ninth commandment, thou shall not bear false witness. You know, LIE. But she LIED LIED LIED. She also tried to get her ex brother in law fired ... Please. Don't call yourself a Christian and then spit at the very God you claim allegiance to.

Look I know there's lying and manipulation going on in both parties. There's also good on both sides. But as Rick Warren said, service can quickly turn into serve us.

My husband found this on today. I just have to include the whole text.

A Call to Arms, By Anne Lamott

I had to leave church Sunday morning when it turned out that the sermon was not about bearing up under desperate circumstances, when you feel like you're going crazy because something is being perpetrated upon you and your country that is so obscene that it simply cannot be happening. I sat outside a 7-Eleven and had a sacramental Dove chocolate bar. Jeez: Here we are again. A man and a woman whose values we loathe and despise -- lying, rageful and incompetent, so dangerous to children and old people, to innocent people in every part of the world -- are being worshiped, exalted by the media, in a position to take a swing at all that is loveliest about this earth and what's left of our precious freedoms.

When I got home from church, I drank a bunch of water to metabolize the Dove bar and called my Jesuit friend, who I know hates these people, too. I asked, "Don't you think God finds these smug egomaniacs morally repellent? Recoils from their smugness as from hot flame?"

And he said, "Absolutely. They are everything He or She hates in a Christian."

I have been in a better mood ever since, and have decided not to even say this woman's name anymore, because she fills me with such existential doubt, such a sense of impending doom and disbelief, that only the Germans could possibly have words for it. Nor am I going to say the word "lipstick" again until after the election, as it would only be used against me. Or "polar bear," because that one image makes me sadder than even horrible old I can stand.

I hate to criticize. And I love to kill wolves as much as the next person does. But this woman takes such pride in her ignorance, doesn't have a doubt in the world about her messianic calling, that it makes anyone of decency feel nauseated -- spiritually, emotionally and physically ill. I say that with love. As we say in Texas. (Also, we say, "Bless her heart.")

We felt this grief and nausea during the run-up to the war in Iraq. We felt it after the 2004 election. And now we feel it again. But since there are still six weeks until the election, and since the stakes are as high as the sky, which should definitely not be forced to endure four more years of the same, we have got to get a grip. There are millions of people to register to vote, millions of dollars to be raised. We really cannot go around feeling flat and defeated, with the need to metabolize the rotten meat that this one particular candidate and the media have forced upon us.

One of the tiny metabolic suggestions I have to offer -- if, like me, you choose not to have her name on your lips, like an oozy cold sore (I say that with love) -- is to check out a Web site called the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator. There you can find out what she and her husband would have named you if you had been their baby. My name, Anne, for instance, would be Krinkle Bearcat. John, her running mate, would be named Stick Freedom. George would be Crunk Petrol. And so on.

First of all, go find out what your own name would be. Then for one day refuse to use the name of these people who are so damaging to earth and to our very souls -- so, "I don't have to understand anything, it's all fuzzy math. Trust me. I'm the decider." From now on, when working for Obama, talk about Obama, talk about his policies, the issues, the economy, the war in Iraq, poverty, the last eight years, Joe Biden. You don't have to mention Crunk Petrol, or his sidekick, Shaver Razorback.

And you sure as hell don't have to mention Claw Washout -- she is absolutely, hands-down the most ludicrous person ever to be nominated. She's a "South Park" character. There was a mix-up. Mistakes were made.

Everything you need to know about how to bear up during these two months is already inside you. Go within: Work on your own emotional acre. Stand still, and hurt, and feel crazy. Then drink a lot of water, pray, meditate, rest. Rest is a spiritual act. Now, I am a reform Christian, so it is permissible for me to secretly believe that God hates this woman, too. I heard God slam down a couple of shooters while she was talking the other night.

Figure out one thing you can do every single day to be a part of the solution, concentrating on swing states. Money, walking precincts, registering voters, whatever. This is the only way miracles ever happen -- left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey this way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world.

As my anonymous pal Krinkle Bearcat once wrote: Laughter is carbonated holiness. It is chemo. So do whatever it takes to keep your sense of humor. Rent Christopher Guest movies, read books by Roz Chast and Maira Kalman. Picture Stick Freedom in his Batman underpants, having one of his episodes of rage alone in one of his seven bedrooms. Or having one of his bathroomy little conversations with Froth Moonshine. (Bless their hearts.) Try to remember that even Karl Rove has accused him of being a lying suck.

Reread everything Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower ever wrote. Write down that great line of Molly's, that "freedom fighters don't always win, but they're always right." Tape it next to your phone. Call the loneliest person you know. Go flirt with the oldest person at the bookstore. Fill up a box with really cool clothes that you haven't worn in a year, and take it to a thrift shop. Take gray water outside and water whatever is growing on your deck. This is not a bad metaphor to live by. I think it is why we are here. Drink more fluids. And take very gentle care of yourself and the people you most love: We need you now more than ever.

Sep 16, 2008

Build A Well in Africa!

Have you ever struggled to find the right gift for a friend? A friend who has everything? Or has nothing worth remembering? don't we have enough 'stuff?'

How about building a well in their name? The most pressing need in Africa is for clean water. In addition to saving lives and improving health, it also cuts down on sexual violence -- many young women get raped going to and from wells.

Our friends Lori and Ted adopted Abe from Ethiopia. Right now, is building wells all over Ethiopia, and they're going to build a well in the region where Abe was born.

Consider donating a few bucks toward building a clean water well. You can even make a contribution to Ted Rooney's well campaign.

Abe says, 'Thank you!'

Sep 14, 2008

On Video: Tina Fey, "Jesus Is My Friend" and Very Bad Church Dancing

This week on video: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
FIRST: the role Tina Fey was born to play.

The Sonseeds an early 1980s band, resurface via viral video. You could call them cheeky Christian ska ... or if Elvis Costello and Donny Osmond tried to evangelize a bowling alley ...

LASTLY, and very unfortunate: This what you get when you combine church music, sexual confusion and Janet Jackson.

Aw, snap. Yes you DID SEE THAT

Sep 7, 2008

Galley Ho!

Saturday morning a UPS delivery guy brought me the galleys to my book. The galleys show you how the book is going to appear on the book actual page, as opposed to staring at a computer screen or 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper for a year. Very exciting. I love what they did with the titles, using the conversation bubbles that are on teh front cover, and i love the typefaces they are using for the top of the book page (I'm sure there's a technical name for it). In any event, I love how it's coming together and everyone's creativity in the process.

My editor, as well as a professional proofreader, will be reading the galleys as well, but this is my last shot to make changes: correct awkward sentences, missed words, I already did spot a few when reviewing a chapter last week. I thought, "wow, I skipped over a few words. Yeesh!" But the Editorial Director me it's par for the course. So it was good to know that kind of thing is normal. Here's what two pages look like.

Now, Of course I can't go and rewrite an entire chapter; or insert or delete massive amounts of text. But it's one step closer to being finished. And one step closer to feeling like it's really happening. That part is very exciting. It brings up all sorts of other fears like, "no one is ever going to read this book." Followed by, "I will be a legal secretary for the rest of my life." Followed by "Until another Great Depression hits (because no one read the book and got encouraged) and I end up working at Pup N Taco, until the grease fire scars my face beyond recognition and so Larry divorces me and I have to move to China and work in a plastics factory.

Oh, where was I? Book galleys arrived; very exciting. Book is on they way. Please buy one when it comes out so I don't end up in a Chinese assembly line.