Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Auguri! " and Happy New Year..from Rome

The Piaza di Spagna --The Spanish Steps -- now jammed with holiday revelers. The flower and keychain and handbag salesguys now have tables covered with bottles of beer, wine, champagne, foccaccia, sandwiches, an other goodies for sale. Most drinking here seems to occur with meals, so public drunkeness is rare and frowned upon. Tonight, drinkers are everywhere, as are fireworks. The Spanish Steps, still alight with the Christmassy "Light of Freedom" in honor of the victims of kidnapping worldwide, are filled with revelers wearing blinking light headgear and other paraphernalia..

After visiting the Steps we returned to our apartment to celebrate the New Year together. At midnight, the fireworks started. Explosions, lights, and sparkling all over this wonderful, crazy city. Strangers wishing each other "Auguri" which translates somewhere between "good luck, "good fortune" and "congratulations." Like wishing a good "augur" of future fate and fortune. THis city is at once enormously religious and pagan at the same time. A crowd of uniformed high ranking polizia and carbineri officials hurried down the street accompanying a city official in a suit. But the crowd drinking and shooting fireworks received no comment. New Years in Rome, We are together again as a family, so far from New York, but after a couple of weeks, beginning to feel strangely at home ere.

It is New Years in Rome. The eternal city ticks off another year. Happy New Year ! Auguri !

Monday, December 22, 2008

DEEP IN THE HEART OF......ROMA

After a 7.5 hour flight spent in the grueling, velvet confines of business class due to an unexpected upgrade, we landed at Fiumicino AIrport in the Eternal City. Saturday, our first day in Rome. The first signs that we are in this 2000 year old city, long-time home to Roman Catholicism, are the young Roman women, dressed up like Santa Claus, in short red skirts, on roller skates, handing out marketing brochures for Rome's Christmas festivities. The Santa hat is a popular accoutrement here. Babies and young children are not. Neither are Ipods evident as they are in NYC.

Cypress and Palm trees on the way from the airport remind us that we are on another continent, on the Mediterranean Sea. Although the palm trees are mindful of oceanfront properties in the southern US, the fantastic proximity of so much antiquity, dating back to 735 BCE , quickly reminds us that we are not in Miami Beach. Saturday night, the Piazza di Spagna , jammed with tourists, seeing and being seen...

On the terrace, seeing stars under a new sky. The sky one has dreamed of, pure, like a blue light reflected in a window. We are here with our children, visiting our older daughter who we haven't seen since September. Here we are, all of us together, under the Roman sky....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WINTER SCENE IN BROOKLYN


Francis Guy, Circa 1819-1820, provenence: The Brooklyn Museum



Court Street & Joralemon Street, 1:30 PM, December 16, photo by Brooklyn Beat

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Governor Rod "Blog" Blagojevich Turning Elected Office Into His Personal ATM. Any potential fallout for the O Team ?

Well, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois seems like a pretty cool customer, for an allegedly corrupt wackadoo. Ironically, it seems like that same strong sense of mid-western American pragmatism, of stockyards and commerce on the Great Lake, and American common sense, that informs and gave this unique world-view to Lincoln and Obama, also contributes to Governor Blog's downfall here...

Anyway, one potential hitch here: It sounds like some Obama people, although apparently not involved in anyway in the wheeling and dealing, made comments that made it sound like someone on Team Obama had discussed the possible replacements with Governor "Blog"... So, it could be a little messy. The problem, as I see it, is, if someone from O's team heard this attempt at "fundraising" and went back to Barry O and said "this guy is a nut" but they didn't report the bribe-asking to the Feds, that is, they decided to keep out of it cause they were busy with the campaign or whatever, it could cause headaches. I wonder if the Feds advised Barry O of this investigation ? You would think they would since he is the President-elect. But since the US Attorney Fitzgerald probably wanted to stay apolitical and see if there were any entanglements -- well, you've got to wonder.. What did George Bush know about the investigation and when did he know it? Did he share this info with the President-elect while he was showing him around the new digs ?

Hopefully, when the Prsesident-elect chats with Governor "Blag" he will get the Rod to agree to resign. Unless he has a cheshire cat smile because he holds a hidden ace...let's see what the coming news cycles bring.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blue Monday - Krugman: 'Depression Economics"

Growing unemployment mixed with media focus on holiday spending. We seem to be floating on a plane of uncertainty, if not unreality. This recession has either hit you really hard already or you have a sense of concern or uncertainty that it is looming out there. If you haven't been immediately hit, that is, you still have a job and you didn't have much money to invest in the first place, so you haven't really lost any, you are aware of how bad things are in a more abstract sense. Statistically, we know things are bad and getting worse for a lot of people. Where is it going. Will the incoming administration's steps do more than give hope -- will it have impact? No one can be certain, but clearly, the Government needs to do something. We are heading in the holiday season. Down deep, people still have hope that, as the year ends and the calendar changes, the new administration enters, the world will change. At the moment, and in the eyes of economists like Nobel winner Paul Krugman, we may be heading for a long climb back up. As the economy started to turn early this year, greeting card designers and trend spotters were already projecting a holiday focus on family, home, counting one's blessings. With the holidays already a lot less merry and bright than past years, we are surely in for some post-holiday gloom in January. Let's hope the public sector financial engineers and political economists can, if not make some magic, begin to provide some leadership and sustenance to those most immediately in need and to our nation as a whole.

from the Krugman interview:

Salon: How bad do you think this is going to get?

Awful. Without a major stimulus package -- sorry, I guess the politically correct term is now "economic recovery plan" -- I'd say that we were definitely headed for double-digit unemployment. Right now the economy is clearly falling as fast as, or faster than, it was in 1981-82, which was a terrifying slump. If Obama doesn't come up with a massive plan, and possibly even if he does, this is going to be a slump that pushes 10 million-plus Americans below the poverty line, and more.


Full interview at Salon here:
http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/feature/2008/12/08/paul_krugman/print.html

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Coda: Skywatching: Jupiter, Venus and the Crescent Moon

I stepped out onto Court Street and was greeted by an achingly brilliant tableau: the Moon, Jupiter and Venus, like platinum etched by diamonds, together in the crisp, clear evening sky.

I stood on the corner of Schermerhorn and Court. By the time I would get home to Flatbush, the Moon and its companions would have somehow have fallen out of the sky, but here on Court Street, it was as though the firmament had been peeled back, revealing the secret clockwork that reflected a googleplex of string and quantam mechanics within, or else, as if a Countermoon had suddenly appeared in the black, western sky to keep its partner company in its solitary revolutions. I imagined everyone would be looking at the sky. But, no, I was alone in my awe.

No one on Court Street seemed to be looking up. Everyone went about their business. I had the urge to bring it to the attention of passersby. Instead, I called home, excitedly told my wife and one of my kids, but when they went out to look, the trees, the angle of view, the tall Victorian rooftops, something, blocked this magnificent occlusion from view.

I was alone in my wonder.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Skywatching: Jupiter, Venus and the Crescent Moon

Not sure what the sky will offer in terms of clarity, but with any luck we will have a great view of this occasuional occultation which will not return for decades. Venus, Jupiter and the Crescent Moon will share the sky over Broklyn (and thereabouts) tonite.

Details here:

http://h30405.www3.hp.com/print/pdf/A41JWYBYYFAP/news_large?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving 2008

This wonderful holiday is nearly upon us. Last year, we faced uncertainty, we were anxious over the possible outcome of the election, even though "things weren't so bad" (yet). This year, the world has taken a grim, more challenged turn. But there is now a little hope with a new president-elect who seems to be assembling a government that really intends to do stuff, and do it to a constructive end. I guess that is reason for thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving. Count your blessings. I am.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

MORE (AHEM) GOOD NEWS: MATT DRUDGE: RUSSIAN ANALYST PREDICTS DECLINE AND BREAKUP OF USA

The Drudge Report cites a leading Russian political analyst who continues to predict that the economic turmoil in the United States has confirmed his long-held view that the country is heading for collapse, and will divide into separate parts.

Drudge Report: Professor Igor Panarin said in an interview with the respected daily IZVESTIA published on Monday: "The dollar is not secured by anything. The country's foreign debt has grown like an avalanche, even though in the early 1980s there was no debt. By 1998, when I first made my prediction, it had exceeded $2 trillion. Now it is more than 11 trillion. This is a pyramid that can only collapse."

The paper said Panarin's dire predictions for the U.S. economy, initially made at an international conference in Australia 10 years ago at a time when the economy appeared strong, have been given more credence by this year's events.

When asked when the U.S. economy would collapse, Panarin said: "It is already collapsing. Due to the financial crisis, three of the largest and oldest five banks on Wall Street have already ceased to exist, and two are barely surviving. Their losses are the biggest in history. Now what we will see is a change in the regulatory system on a global financial scale: America will no longer be the world's financial regulator."

When asked who would replace the U.S. in regulating world markets, he said: "Two countries could assume this role: China, with its vast reserves, and Russia, which could play the role of a regulator in Eurasia."

Asked why he expected the U.S. to break up into separate parts, he said: "A whole range of reasons. Firstly, the financial problems in the U.S. will get worse. Millions of citizens there have lost their savings. Prices and unemployment are on the rise. General Motors and Ford are on the verge of collapse, and this means that whole cities will be left without work. Governors are already insistently demanding money from the federal center. Dissatisfaction is growing, and at the moment it is only being held back by the elections and the hope that Obama can work miracles. But by spring, it will be clear that there are no miracles."

He also cited the "vulnerable political setup", "lack of unified national laws", and "divisions among the elite, which have become clear in these crisis conditions."

He predicted that the U.S. will break up into six parts - the Pacific coast, with its growing Chinese population; the South, with its Hispanics; Texas, where independence movements are on the rise; the Atlantic coast, with its distinct and separate mentality; five of the poorer central states with their large Native American populations; and the northern states, where the influence from Canada is strong.

He even suggested that "we could claim Alaska - it was only granted on lease, after all." Panarin, 60, is a professor at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has authored several books on information warfare.


Track this story at:
http://drudgereport.com/

"See Me Through the Morning Light"

Ain't got no religion on me
I'm gettin' scared to sleep at night
Ain't got no religion
I'm getting scared gettin' scared to sleep at night
But I need somebody help me please make it through the night

Ain't got no religion on me
I'm getting scared gettin' scared to sleep at night
Ain't got no religion on me
I'm getting scared gettin' scared to sleep at night
But I need somebody Jehovah, Allah, Yahweh, somebody, see me through the morning light
--Mem Shannon

Mem Shannon and the Membership are an amazing blues and funk outfit, New Orleans-based, that meld New Orleans and Memphis blues, propelled by the awesome guitarwork and vocals of Mr. Shannon. With the world in commotion, houses in motion, an air of unreality crossed with despair, as evidenced by mass prayer vigils over the economic crisis balanced (finally) by a president-elect with the courage to go jogging on Sunday morning instead of the obligatory church visits, we are clearly a world in turmoil, but with a smidgen of hope.

Time to sing the blues, which can represent a gate that opens in what seems to be a solid brick wall, as much as it sounds like a song of despair or sorrow. Check out Mem Shannon's powerful "No Religion" on "Mem Shannon - Live at Tipintina's " or "I'm From Phunkville."

Mem Shannon - "No Religion" live:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lSFO9HRwcA

Mem Shannon - "No Religion" MP3 podcast:

http://c1.libsyn.com/editions/16753/792/indiefeedblues_memshannon_noreligion.mp3?nvb=20081125144821&nva=20081126144821&t=0dee3cb9f10df9c76eca4

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tofurky vs. Turducken

Tofurky vs. Turducken - where do you stand ?

Education in NYC

The Wall Street Journal had a very interesting selection of comments and observations on the upcoming Agenda -- the key issues that the Obama administration will face, as discussed by executives and professionals in varying fields. The Daily News had a powerful editorial about school quality and race/ethnicity in the NYC public schools, which raised complex issues and questions about education quality, teaching and learning.

WALL STREET JOURNAL excerpt:

JOEL KLEIN: There’s a reason why we’re still stuck in the same ditch. That doesn’t happen by accident. There are strong and powerful forces that maintain the system, because it works well for lots of people, just not the kids.
And if the president were to ask me, I would tell him there are two things that he ought to focus on, both mentioned by Lou. The first is national standards and national assessments. The tragedy is not simply how many kids aren’t graduating. The tragedy is how many kids are graduating wholly unprepared for anything that follows. The easiest way to improve the graduation rate in America is to lower the standards. And lots of people have done that, and as long as we keep doing that, we’ll delude ourselves into thinking we have a decent graduation rate, but in fact our kids will be wholly unprepared.

In New York City, and this is highly controversial, we put a letter grade on every school, based on progress. And we do that to make the system transparent and actually allow people to bring the house down on us. Because you put a letter F or a letter D on a school, and even middle-class schools that think, because they have a lot of bright kids there, they’re doing a great job, but they’re not remotely doing a great job.
Our kids in Ohio are not going to compete differently in a global economy than our kids in New York. It’s sort of silly to have all of these different standards and assessments. And also, it makes the attack on assessments easier because by having 50 different ones, you’re not really investing in getting the economies of scale.

The magic ingredient in the game I play is high-quality teaching. We don’t remotely have enough of it because we don’t reward it properly, we backload the pay scale. The real money goes into the people who are in the system a long time, gets rolled up in a defined-benefit pension plan, makes it very hard to attract new talent. We don’t reward excellence, we don’t give hardship pay, we pay the same thing for a science teacher and a math teacher that we do for a physical-education teacher. If any university did that, they’d go under.

I would repurpose almost all of the federal dollars that are now in it. That’s a lot of money, $30 billion to $40 billion. I would repurpose that to teacher excellence


MR. KLEIN: The countries that succeed, they tend to draw their teachers from the top quarter, top third of their graduating college classes. These are people who have been academically successful, who believe in assessment, because they’ve lived under it and it’s served them well. In the United States, we draw teachers from the bottom quarter of our college graduates, and our kids in high-poverty neighborhoods get the bottom quarter of the bottom quarter.

And all the incentives are misaligned. You wait for the 20 years, because then it’s actually when it starts to get good, because you’re getting across-the-board pay hikes. So whenever I pay a three-year, 10%, across-the-board pay hike, the people who are locked into the system are getting $8,000 and $10,000 and $12,000 raises, all rolled up in a defined benefit, which means that I’m not getting any return on that money. Whereas the people I’m trying to attract, the young kids who I want to stay in the earliest years, they’re getting the same 10% on $40,000 or $38,000.

So, in effect, we’re rewarding the wrong things. That’s why I think if the federal government were to come in, tied to a real accountability system and said, “This is what we want to reward in teacher performance, we’ll use federal dollars, and if you go to our most challenging schools, it’ll be 1.5X; and if you do it in math and science, it’ll be 2X.” And if it were to use the federal billions in a way that started to create excellence, you’d attract different people, they would be incentivized in different ways, and you would begin to create a culture of excellence.


Wall Street Journal Report on Education:
http://blogs.wsj.com/ceo-council/2008/11/23/failing-our-children/

Friday, November 21, 2008

Affairs of State and the Exchequer: Hillary Is In, While the Economy Goes Round and Round, Whoa-oh-oh-oh, And it Comes out -- Where ?

Hillary is it, evidently trading her junior US Senator from NY status for the Secretary of State, according to the NY TIMES:

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/21/clinton-to-accept-secretary-of-state-job/?hp

Will David Paterson be the next US Senator from NY (my speculation) in some version of the Sarah Palin scenario described for US Senator Ted Stevens (R- Alaska) before he was beaten at the polls? Reportedly, Senator Chuck Schumer is seeking a less high profile junior Senator as a replacement.

There was a very interesting interview with Malcolm Gladwell last night on the Rachel Maddow Show (on MSNBC). The author of Blink, the Tipping Point, and Outliers, found merit in the President-elect's selection of experienced Washington DC -hands, which balances well with Mr. Obama's own confidence and intelligence which will enable him to use these experienced Washington-hands (see "the 10,000 hour rule") as the levers to accomplish his plans.

See discussion here:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#27831448

2025 - what the future holds for the US and the World, an intelligence report:

http://www.reuters.com/article/usDollarRpt/idUSN2041155720081120

The headline on yesterday's daily news as the market dipped below 8,000 was both comic and tragic : "Only 7,997 to Go !"

Billion dollar bailouts that go to corporations that spend the public mazuma on massages and fine dining, while Detroit writhes... So we shouldn't enter the weekend without a little melancholy, as the tsunami of the current world financial crisis begins to swell against the horizon, like "The Last Wave," all we can do is keep breathing and wonder, what's next ?, meanwhile, a little reading:

Niall Ferguson on the whys and wherefores of the current mess/crisis, from December 2008 Vanity Fair:
http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/12/banks200812

Mr. Ferguson in 2006, prescient wolf calls of inevitability in the night, VF, October 2006:
http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2006/10/empire200610

Crowds to Cobble Stones: Joralemon Street




Took a fast lunchtime walk from Court Street to Furman Street on Joralemon Street. Chilly, sunny, the lunch-time crowds meltaway on Court and side streets, from crowds to cobble stones. Some cold winds off the water by Furman, the Falls pretty much a memory now, and looking to the sun for cold comfort, even though it is still only November.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Things Are Gonna Change Now": Bob Dylan on Election Night

Bob Dylan played the Twin Cities area in Minnesota, his home state, on Election Night. Here is a great report, from a Minnesota blog, on the evening. First, think about it --President-elect Obama assembles his own Lincoln-styled "Team of Rivals." The Obama kids may be getting a puppy. Snow flurries are possible in NYC on Monday ! Have a great weekend! -- Brooklyn Beat

No one was expecting Bob Dylan to say a thing during his two-plus hour concert last night at Northrop Auditorium. For years, Dylan has been known to keep to himself during shows, often only speaking between songs once in order to introduce his band members. But last night, after a lengthy break between his regular set and his encore which I can only imagine was spent discovering that Barack Obama had won the election, Dylan returned to the stage to play "Like a Rolling Stone" and then turned to the audience and spoke.

"I was born in 1941," he said, a wavering sentimentality in his scratchy voice. "That was the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I've been living in darkness ever since. It looks like things are going to change now."

--Andrea Swensson's review in Citypages

An affecting story of Election Night with Bob Dylan in the Heartland. Full story here: http://blogs.citypages.com/gimmenoise/2008/11/bob_dylan_thing.php

Monday, November 10, 2008

There is More Than One American Dream: Envisioning a Knowledge-Based Presidency

After the cheering, after the tears, and the euphoria, and the possible baby boomlet resulting from the sheer joy of this victory of rationalism and progress after 8 years of chaos in the executive office, and the decades of the political ascendancy of extremism on the right and neo-conservative hegemony, we are still at a remarkably dangerous time in our history. The GOP and its extremist ideology has pushed the pendulum as far as they could to the right, and now we are in a phase of counter-swing, that seems so essential. It's not just politics. Based on the Fox News story about "W's comments on the first Obama-Bush meeting when the 44th President was still a freshman, incoming senator, it is clear that 43 was not operating from a place of pragmatism and humanism. And it sounds more and more that he was not functioning with, as they say, "a clear head." Despite all of the chaos created by the GOP free market obsessed free-booters, there are calls for the incoming President to govern from the center. We need progress, creativity, intelligence, combined with thoughtful, pragmatic, managerial and technology-based vision.

The time for "let it all hang out, let's see what happens, political action," as witnessed in Iraq, in New Orleans during Katrina, and on Wall Street is now over. The Founders established separation of church and state, balance of power, checks and balances at the root of this democracy. America cannot function with only a private sector, just as it cannot function with only a public sector. The past 8 years has proven the importance of a strong, rational government through its absence. But the forces of greed and ignorance will still be clamoring for a return to power.

Nicholas Kristof on the importance of intelligence (the brainy kind) in the White House:
Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.

Maybe, just maybe, the result will be a step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life. Smart and educated leadership is no panacea, but we’ve seen recently that the converse — a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance — doesn’t get very far either.


Full Article here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/opinion/09kristof.html?em=&pagewanted=print

Frank Rich on What It All Means:
It Still Felt Good the Morning After
By FRANK RICH
ON the morning after a black man won the White House, America’s tears of catharsis gave way to unadulterated joy.

Our nation was still in the same ditch it had been the day before, but the atmosphere was giddy. We felt good not only because we had breached a racial barrier as old as the Republic. Dawn also brought the realization that we were at last emerging from an abusive relationship with our country’s 21st-century leaders. The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place — in cities all over America.

For eight years, we’ve been told by those in power that we are small, bigoted and stupid — easily divided and easily frightened. This was the toxic catechism of Bush-Rove politics. It was the soiled banner picked up by the sad McCain campaign, and it was often abetted by an amen corner in the dominant news media. We heard this slander of America so often that we all started to believe it, liberals most certainly included. If I had a dollar for every Democrat who told me there was no way that Americans would ever turn against the war in Iraq or definitively reject Bush governance or elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama president, I could almost start to recoup my 401(k). Few wanted to take yes for an answer.

So let’s be blunt. Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night.


Full article here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/opinion/09rich.html?_r=1&em=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

Thomas Friedman on the True Test of Support for the 44th President:

But I wouldn’t exaggerate it. The minute Obama has to exercise U.S. military power somewhere in the world, you can be sure that he will get blowback. For now, though, his biography, demeanor and willingness to at least test a regime like Iran’s with diplomacy makes him more difficult to demonize than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

“If you’re a hard-liner in Tehran, a U.S. president who wants to talk to you presents more of a quandary than a U.S. president who wants to confront you,” remarked Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment. “How are you going to implore crowds to chant ‘Death to Barack Hussein Obama’? That sounds more like the chant of the oppressor, not the victim. Obama just doesn’t fit the radical Islamist narrative of a racist, blood-thirsty America, which is bent on oppressing Muslims worldwide. There’s a cognitive dissonance. It’s like Hollywood casting Sidney Poitier to play Charles Manson. It just doesn’t fit.”

But while the world appears poised to give Obama a generous honeymoon, there lurks a much more important question: How long of a honeymoon will Obama give the world?

To all those Europeans, Canadians, Japanese, Russians, Iranians, Chinese, Indians, Africans and Latin Americans who are e-mailing their American friends about their joy at having “America back,” now that Obama is in, I just have one thing to say: “Show me the money!”

Don’t just show me the love. Don’t just give me the smiles. Your love is fickle and, as I said, it will last about as long as the first Obama airstrike against an Al Qaeda position in Pakistan. No, no, no, show me the money. Show me that you are ready to be Obama stakeholders, not free-riders — stakeholders in what will be expensive and difficult initiatives by the Obama administration to keep the world stable and free at a time when we have fewer resources.


Full article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/opinion/09friedman.html?em=&pagewanted=print

Building the Progressive Future on the Fierce Urgency of Now:
Karl Rove, who has not gotten enough credit for political strategies that helped make Democrats’ landslide victories in 2006 and 2008 possible, had a telling line last night on FOX News. While he was announcing that Obama had won Virginia, and was well on his way to a landslide, Bush’s campaign chief insisted that the United States remained a “center-right” nation.
Until last night. After winning control of the House and Senate in 2006, Democrats in 2008 greatly added to their numbers and also won the White House.

Why would a center-right nation not only reaffirm the allegedly left-wing leadership of Pelosi and Reid, but then expand their power by giving a landslide to Barack Obama?

After nearly forty years of an ascending conservative political movement, it is understandable that Rove and many pundits are now in deep denial. But the voters are demanding progressive change, and it is incumbent upon all those who made phone calls and/or traveled to other states to take a break, get refreshed and then plunge back into transforming a victory at the polls into policies and programs that set the nation on a new course.

Rove is not the first to make this point in recent weeks..

Full article here:
http://www.progressivefuture.org/blog

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Coda: Coney Island of the Soul -- Seasons Change With the Scenery





Left, On the Beach; below, Boardwalk Littoral: Sand Washed Up During Recent Storms, November 9, 2008


Polar Bears Out for A Dip, November 9, 2008

Election fever and school application mania not withstanding, on Sunday, it seemed like a touch of nature and a long walk were in order, so we headed down to the sea. While, in terms of commerz, Coney Island is in more of a state of quietude, there is such a wonderful sense of the natural world at this time. Still, plenty of excitement: Polar Bears in beachwear getting ready for a dip; a few vendors still open for business on the boardwalk and off; kiteflyers by the shore. The boardwalk now features some sand in spots where recent weather and tidal action have made for some very powerful waves indeed. A deep trench seems to have been cut by the waves, just east of the long pier. Seems too deep to have been human-made.

And in the mix, a solo electric blues guitarist performing some very soulful tunes for the strollers on the woodenway. Blues for a lost lover, blues for the future of Coney Island, and simply blues for the passing of the seasons.

But also, for this stroller, blues for a nation that seems to have narrowly escaped despair, at least for the moment, but that still has a long way to go to pull ourselves out of the trench that has been created by the storms of the last 8 years.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Theater of the Absurd or Dans Macabre: Deep in the Heart of the High School Application Process




At left, audition rehearsal night at MS 51 last week. Photo by Brooklyn Beat

Just a moment of acknowledgement, and sympathy, to other Brooklyn parents who, like we do, have kids in that transitional year from 8th grade to high school in the New York City public schools. Auditions, interviews, high school admission exams, the ordering of the high school choices, the open houses, the high school admission workshops over the summer in Manhattan, the mobbed school visits at some of the specialized and screened high schools, getting up extra early and getting to work extra late due to the morning visits to schools, and then having to leave work early to attend the evening visits to schools and open houses, sometimes on the same day.

Well, I feel your pain. Even though we have been through this twice before with our older kids, it seems to become more complex and fraught with tension each time as the high school admission rules changed. And, while private school was never really an option for us, now the economy appears to have driven even more families into the application and admissions mix. Some of the open houses have been literally jammed to the rafters.

One of our daughters was fortunate to be able to participate in the audition night at MS 51 last week, which seems to have a wonderful theater program. She had been working with a weekend and after school group at the Old Stone House. The number of kids -- really talented kids-- who are interested in one of the theater programs, and who are auditioning for LaGuardia, PPAS, TU, or Murrow, must be at some kind of all time high. I was chatting that evening with a wonderful actress and drama coach, who is herself the parent of an 8th grader, and who has worked with our daughter, and we were talking about how amazing it is that so many kids are interested in the arts today, especially drama, and how talented so many of them are. It made me think that, with this volume of interest, and the huge number of kids applying at LaGuardia, how do the screened theater high schools choose kids out of this pool of talent ? Very daunting. Although every parent hopes/thinks their kid who has an arts interest has "Talent," given the complications of this high school process, you never can predict the outcome, especially with the screened programs, and our daughters have expressed some frustration, and even shed a few tears, as we try to help them navigate these next few weeks and then the couple of months of waiting for the results.

So, anyway, parents, hang in there, it is coming down to the wire. The auditions are in full swing, maybe beginning to arc toward conclusion, the visits are beginning to wind down, and though the tension is still high, our school has a late November application due date in advance of the December 2nd official high school application date. So, by Thanksgiving, the die will have been cast (or the dice will have been rolled in the vernacular).

And then again, consider yourself lucky. In addition to finding high schools for our twin daughters, our older son is applying to college for the fall. For those of you who know, that is another story. So take heart, It Can Always Be Worse.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post-Election Notes: Power & Magic - From Brooklyn & Beyond

Post-Election Note #1: My mom said she was in church this morning in Bensonhurst, at St. Athanasius on Bay Parkway to be exact, and a young professional woman she sees in church frequently, who is Black and has young kids said to her "What did you think about the election?" My mom said "Well, my guy won" and the woman was surprised and delighted that an elderly retired white Italian American lady had voted for Senator Barack Obama. You've got to love this country...our capacity to change and grow.

Post-Election Note #2: The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama transition team, along with the re-energized Congressional Democrats, are leaping into action now. This is clearly an administration that has learned a lot from the past and is using the opportunities available in the transition to their fullest, rather than waiting until after the inauguration. Reviewing regulatory structures to better protect investors, while balancing the need to not over regulate. Seeking to invest in the US auto industry while encouraging fuel efficiency. Yes, the free market, having swung as far as it could, with some disastrous results, is now in its counter-swing, where some regulation and virtual-nationalization will be necessary.(Will this be the era of neo-nationalization, or neo-socialism, to balance the bankrupt and bankrupting era of neo-conservatism that has just concluded? ) Nevertheless, the internet is already reporting on "Impeachment" sites, http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=081105214913.k5rna1c2&show_article=1
and you can see that the lunatic, no-doubt nutty and racist fringe, is already sharpening their claws. Obama won by taking the high-road and avoiding election-trash talking. But clearly the new base of the Republican party, with Sarah Palin as their future standard bearer, no doubt, who could win election-after-election by brutal propagandizing and marketing through "527s" (i.e., Swiftboating), but who proved over the last 8 years that they could not effectively govern, will do everything they can to tear down the new administration before the inauguration and then fight it every step of the way. The 44th President's administration is going to have to stand tall and fight hard. They will have many enemies, both among the wealthy classes who will fight regulation, taxes on capital gains, etc, as well as among the disaffected, angry right wing base. Not to mention the always present possibility of enemies and terrorists, both foreign and domestic. The new administration will need to advance its initiatives boldly, to the greatest extent possible, while not disappointing supporters since it would appear that even with the best and noblest intentions, politics is not equivalent to magic and their are few quick fixes to our most vexing problems.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Off and Running: 44's Transition Team Announced

CNN Reports that President-elect Obama has announced this transition team. Brooklyn's Patrick Gaspard is right there in the thick of it.
CNN:
Chicago - For the past several months, a board of advisors has been informally planning for a possible presidential transition. Among the many projects undertaken by the transition board have been detailed analyses of previous transition efforts, policy statements made during the campaign, and the workings of federal government agencies, and priority positions that must be filled by the incoming administration.

With Barack Obama and Joe Biden's election, this planning process will be now be formally organized as the Obama-Biden Transition Project, a 501(c)(4) organization to ensure a smooth transition from one administration to the next. The work of this entity will be overseen by three co-chairs: John Podesta, Valerie Jarrett, and Pete Rouse.

The co-chairs will be assisted by an advisory board comprised of individuals with significant private and public sector experience: Carol Browner, William Daley, Christopher Edley, Michael Froman, Julius Genachowski, Donald Gips, Governor Janet Napolitano, Federico Peña, Susan Rice, Sonal Shah, Mark Gitenstein, and Ted Kaufman. Gitenstein and Kaufman will serve as co-chairs of Vice President-elect Biden's transition team.

Supervising the day-to-day activities of the transition will be:

Transition Senior Staff:

Chris Lu - Executive Director
Dan Pfeiffer - Communications Director
Stephanie Cutter - Chief Spokesperson
Cassandra Butts - General Counsel
Jim Messina - Personnel Director
Patrick Gaspard - Associate Personnel Director
Christine Varney - Personnel Counsel
Melody Barnes - Co-Director of Agency Review
Lisa Brown - Co-Director of Agency Review
Phil Schiliro - Director of Congressional Relations
Michael Strautmanis - Director of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs
Katy Kale - Director of Operations
Brad Kiley - Director of Operations




CNN Ticker:
http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/11/05/obama-transition-team-announced/#more-29462

YES WE DID: Change Has Come ----President-Elect Barack Obama



A visionary. Healer. Orator. A new generation moves onto the stage having defeated the politics of the past. Recognizing the necessity for a new politics and a new model of America, as Lincoln did, as FDR did, as JFK did, even, as Reagan did. A vision for change and the courage to pursue it.

What a remarkable time to be alive in this fantastic country. History unfolds. Promising a government that crosses party lines and creates something entirely new. We are at a time of promise and, yes, hope.

Electoral college and polls: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/barack-obama-president-elect-of-united.html

The speech:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJBmpXyBGTE&eurl=http://www.breitbart.tv/?p=213563

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Brooklyn on Election Day: Wake Up

Brooklyn Heights at noon on Election Day 2008 is quiet. I did a pass-by of the Brooklyn Municipal Building which was jammed with lines out the door this morning. Voters are lined up waiting patiently inside. Not as amazingly jam packed as the early morning voters, but there is a bit of a lunch-time line neverhteless. The Tuesday Greenmarket is in action. The Obama button and t-shirt guys are all out there selling their wares. Historic election art that I expect to see at the NY Historical Society (or the Smithsonian) some day, the way that we now see JFK, Thomas Jefferson, and other historic Americans.

An interesting sense of ownership about this process. A woman, African American, sitting in the park on Cadman Plaza outside the Supreme Court building, under the statue of Brooklyn's famed abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, is exhorting passersby to vote. "You have til 9 PM tonite to vote, please don't forget to vote" she reminds us warmly. No candidate mentioned.

As I walked, another couple of young guys chatting, reflecting the hopes and the fears of this possibly historic day: "I'm just worried, man, they always go after the great ones." Reminded me of Rage Against the Machine's "Wake Up." Shake that off, time for faith and hope.


Abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, Brooklyn Heights, Election Day 2008 Photo by Brooklyn Beat

Comes a Time

This is an historic day. The outcome of this election, in view of the last 8 years, will say a lot about where we go as a nation, and also a lot about where we are and who we are as a country. My daughter who is studying in Europe said the perception there is this is a chance for America to redefine ourselves. But the USA is a Big country, and our population and ideology is reflective of a lot more than the two coasts and the news media. Let's see what America believes early in the 21st century. It's a time for Hope, at a time when our country desperately needs Change.


"Comes A Time"

Comes a time
when you're driftin'
Comes a time
when you settle down
Comes a light
feelin's liftin'
Lift that baby
right up off the ground.

Oh, this old world
keeps spinning round
It's a wonder tall trees
ain't layin' down
There comes a time.

You and I we were captured
We took our souls
and we flew away
We were right
we were giving
That's how we kept
what we gave away.

Oh, this old world
keeps spinning round
It's a wonder tall trees
ain't layin' down
There comes a time.

--Neil Young


"Comes a Time" - 1987 Neil Young:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY78hECM8-0&feature=related

Friday, October 31, 2008

Get Ready to Rumble: No Electioneering Beyond This Point



Polling machines await at MS 51 in Park Slope.

What will the future hold?

Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal, like much of the mainstream financial media, at least publicly, sees gloom and doom, in the Obama campaign's offers of Change. There will be no quick improvements. There may be more taxes. The country may be in for a realignment. But, while we await the Hope, and Fear, of Change, we need to acknowledge that, in view of 9/11. Iraq, Katrina, the severe economic downturn, health care issues, retirements, etc., things are not heading in the correct direction and new ideas are needed. That is the great secret of this election. We have nothing to fear but fear itself, but that is true everywhere -- People are willing to stick with the past, solutions that haven't worked, fear of elites, but also fear of the "GOP base", fear of religion, fear of losing my religion, fear of taxes, fear of financial derivatives of mass destruction...you get the idea.

The bottom-line: How can anyone be worried about Senator Obama, since look what a free-market oriented, neo-conservative, jingoistic President has unleashed. Damn, I don't expect miracles overnight, no one should or can, but at least there isa possibility of balance, a corrective to the 8 years of excess we have just experienced. The hope of this country is based on the potential of peaceful revolution and change. Think of these 8 years of radical neo-conservative realignment. The Marxists no doubt are viewing this as an inevitable ending to advanced capitalism. America needs to remain a democracy. That is in our soul, at the root of our being. But what the last 8 years have proven is that a country of our size and economic complexity cannot exist without a strong government to balance powerful corporations. Our social institutions will and must remain strong and democratic but economically, perhaps, we have unwittinlgly unleashed an economic explosion that has propelled our economis system, along with the rest of the world, through the looking glass and into a Brave New World.

Friday, October 24, 2008

America: 2008

Not sure of the source of these eloquent and poignant photos of an American candidate and a quintessentially American family. No matter how you cut it, we are living in interesting, challenging, yet very hopeful times. Wow.




Thursday, October 23, 2008

Theater in DUMBO: Floating Brothel at Galapagos


The Galapagos Art Space, an intriguing space at 16 Main Street at Water Street in DUMBO, has a great program of upcoming events.

http://www.galapagosartspace.com/events.html

Of particular interest is "The Floating Brothel" on Monday October 27th, 8pm

A 1600 square foot indoor lake. Five actors telling the story of a ship full of convict women; the underbelly of London; unknown continents; all told within the confines of a 3'x6' platform that serves as the stage and world for this performance.

Ticket info here: http://www.smarttix.com/show.aspx?showCode=FLO6

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sen. Chuck Schumer: Sees Huge Margin for Obama

Politico.com reports that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) predicted Tuesday that Barack Obama will win more than 300 Electoral College votes when voters go to the polls in two weeks. (The Electoral College consists of 538 popularly elected representatives who formally select the President and Vice President of the United States.)

“I think this is one of those rare tectonic plate elections where the deep plates beneath our politics move. I think it's changing things not just for an election cycle but, perhaps, for a generation,” Schumer, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman, said during an appearance at the National Press Club.

Schumer, appearing with GOP counterpart Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, said he expects an Obama win to come with coattails, but would not go as far as to forecast that the Democrats will have 60 seats when the Senate convenes next year.



http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1008/14798.html

The Electoral College consists of 538 popularly elected representatives who formally select the President and Vice President of the United States. In 2008, it will make this selection on December 15. The Electoral College is an example of an indirect election.

Rather than directly voting for the President and Vice President, United States citizens cast votes for electors. Electors are technically free to vote for anyone eligible to be President, but in practice pledge to vote for specific candidates[2] and voters cast ballots for favored presidential and vice presidential candidates by voting for correspondingly pledged electors. Most states allow voters to choose between statewide slates of electors pledged to vote for the presidential and vice presidential tickets of various parties; the ticket that receives the most votes statewide 'wins' all of the votes cast by electors from that state. U.S. presidential campaigns concentrate on winning the popular vote in a combination of states that choose a majority of the electors, rather than campaigning to win the most votes nationally.

Each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its Senators and Representatives in the United States Congress. Additionally, Washington, D.C. is given a number of electors equal to the number held by the smallest states.[4] U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral College.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Watch Out What You Wish For: Senator Biden on "Augean Stables" and What Comes Next in This Brave New World

And, if the economy alone isn't bad enough, Senator Joe Biden is giving the dark low down on the likely crises faced by the next President. Whoever is lucky, or unlucky, enough to prevail in November faces an enormous load of issues, an "augean stable" of a mess to address, with the likelihood that the new President will have his mettle tested by international conflict. The fact that some view us as vulnerable at the moment suggests just how complicated things are:

Senator Joe Biden ABC :

Gird your loins," Biden told the crowd. "We're gonna win with your help, God willing, we're gonna win, but this is not gonna be an easy ride. This president, the next president, is gonna be left with the most significant task. It's like cleaning the Augean stables, man. This is more than just, this is more than – think about it, literally, think about it – this is more than just a capital crisis, this is more than just markets. This is a systemic problem we have with this economy."

Because I promise you, you all are gonna be sitting here a year from now going, 'Oh my God, why are they there in the polls? Why is the polling so down? Why is this thing so tough?' We're gonna have to make some incredibly tough decisions in the first two years. So I'm asking you now, I'm asking you now, be prepared to stick with us. Remember the faith you had at this point because you're going to have to reinforce us."

"There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go, 'Whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don't know about that decision'," Biden continued. "Because if you think the decision is sound when they're made, which I believe you will when they're made, they're not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they're popular, they're probably not sound."

Biden emphasized that the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border is of particular concern, with Osama bin Laden "alive and well" and Pakistan "bristling with nuclear weapons."


One would hope that the next decade will pull Americans together into a post-partisan political partnership but Biden's comments suggest that the camps expect the US political scene to remain much as it has been in the past.

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/2008/10/biden-to-suppor.html

After the Fall: American Economics - Post-Boom, Post-Bust

I came across this article (from 1999) this weekend, by Dean Baker, written during the hey day of the first major dot.com bubble around the turn of the century (that has such a nice ring to it). It appeared in In These Times magazine, a publication that would best be described as progressive and might even have a little of the "S" word. I had printed the article out when it was first published, stuck it in a folder, and found it again in a box of clippings and stuff I was cleaning out at home. I know business cycles are structural, but Mr. Baker seems to have written the play book for the near future. The Wall Street Journal and much of the business press are not in the business of reality journalism. Oh, they report the economic news accurately, but in retrospect their whole worldview now appears to involve being cheerleaders from the sidelines as the spirit of the free market runs rampant across the land. We now seem to be about to reap a little of what we have sowed.

http://www.inthesetimes.com/issue/24/01/baker2401.html

A few excerpts:
Stock prices will plunge - it's just a question of when. Prices are determined by the psychology of investors. Their enthusiasm for stocks, no matter how irrational, may keep prices at inflated levels for six months, two years, even a decade. Economics and logic can't predict exactly when reality will catch up with this enthusiasm: They only assure that at some point it will.

Although the day of reckoning may be many years in the future, it is still worth thinking about what the post-crash world will look like. Most immediately, a large number of people will suddenly be far poorer. A 50 percent decline in the stock market will destroy more than $7 trillion worth of paper wealth. Some of the losers will be the Internet billionaires and other high flyers who richly deserve their fate. But most of the losers will be middle-income workers who were relying on the stock market to provide their retirement income.

A crash will also throw the economy into a tailspin. Currently the economy is being propelled by a stock-market-driven consumption boom. As people see the value of their stock portfolios rise, they go out and spend money. They are spending so much that the savings rate has actually turned negative in the last year, with people almost outspending their entire income. A stock crash will throw this pattern into reverse. As people watch the value of their stock portfolios shrivel, they will cut back their spending to try to rebuild their savings. This will lead to a large falloff in demand and almost certainly to a recession. A recession would likely raise the unemployment rate by at least 2 to 3 percent. Following historic patterns, this would mean an increase in the unemployment rate among African-Americans of 4 to 6 percent.

This new economic environment will require an entirely different political agenda. Millions of people will be desperate and angry. It will be important to be prepared to move forward with policies that address people's immediate needs and also set the path for an economic recovery on a more solid foundation. In the post-crash world, progressive ideas now seen as untenable suddenly will appear both reasonable and necessary."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Post-Debate Unease: Turdblossom on Barry O vs. All Forms of Whiggery

Senator McCain threw everything including the kitchen sink at Senator Obama last night and some of it may even have stuck but it didn't seem to matter..McCain may be misreading the temperament of the electorate. Is it possible people want a leader, not an angry Whig. While Sen. McCain was effective on the attack, it seems that among independents and people on the fence, those attack issues are just a distraction right now. No one cares about them right now (even the war is a distraction from the economy -- how bizarre is that?)

"Barry O" is taking his time, exercising care and all due diligence during the debate, since apparent frontrunners like to avoid being cast as "incumbents" so it is a slippery slope right now. And despite the apparent poll leads, and the desire for the American public to indeed make a swing away from the neo-con GOP ideologues to a more liberal-interventionist Democratic model with the Deep Pockets and Magic Money Machines that seem so essential at this moment, care must be taken not to overreach or over-assume by a campaign.

Meanwhile, Karl "Turdblossom" Rove states in the Wall Street Journal (will that paper soon need a new title ?) that perhaps Senator Obama hasn't yet closed the sale with the American electorate:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122411909182439021.html


There's hope, there's vision. And while Senator Obama seems to be running the only true, sane game in town, we can only pray that "We Don't Get Fooled Again"...

Go down, Moses...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pre-Debate Chatter: Senator Obama's Campaign Issues Debate "Talking Points"

According to the Drudgreport.com, Senator Barack Obama's Presidential campaign has issued talking points to the media in adance of the debate. The email below was issued by Sean Smith, the Press Secretary to Senator Obama:

-------- Original Message --------
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2008 09:37:27 -0500
From: Sean Smith [****mith@barackobama.com]
To: Sean Smith [****mith@barackobama.com]

* This is John McCain's last chance to turn this race around and somehow convince the American people that his erratic response to this economic crisis doesn't disqualify him from being President.

* Just this weekend the weekend, John McCain vowed to "whip Obama's you-know-what" at the debate, and he's indicated that he'll be bringing up Bill Ayers to try to distract voters.

* So we know that Senator McCain will come ready to attack Barack Obama and bring his dishonorable campaign tactics to the debate stage.

Obama continues to lead on the economic crisis with a rescue plan for Main Street.

* Over the course of the campaign, Barack Obama has laid out a set of policies that will grow our middle class and strengthen our economy.

* But he knows we face an immediate economic emergency that requires urgent action - on top of the plans he's already laid out - to help workers and families and communities struggling right now.

* That's why Barack Obama is introducing a comprehensive four-part Rescue Plan for the Middle Class - to immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities, and help struggling homeowners.

* This is a plan that can and should be implemented immediately.

* Obama has shown steady leadership during this crisis and offered concrete solutions to move the country forward - and his Rescue Plan for the Middle Class builds on the plans to strengthen the economy and rebuild the middle class that he's laid out over the course of this campaign.

* Already in this campaign, he's unveiled plans to give 95 percent of workers and their families a tax cut, eliminate income taxes for seniors making under $50,000, bring down the cost of health care for families and businesses; and create millions of new jobs by investing in the renewable energy sources.

* John McCain has been erratic and unsteady since this crisis began - staggering from position to position and trying to change the subject away from the economy by launching false character attacks.

END

Sunday, October 12, 2008

AUTUMN SUNDOWN: Red Hook



Down by the Red Hook Waterfront,we made one of our brief run throughs of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Show, Free Fall which has two more weekends and is well worth a visit. Be sure to catch Anna Annus Hagen's and Tom Hagen's virtual studio set up, Dawn Petrlik's installation that explores the GOP VP candidate in the wild, my better half's, Judith Tantleff-Napoli's, mixed media sculptures and lots of other inspiring and provocative work by BWAC's host of artists. We also caught a super ragtime and blues performance by Frank Hoier. And, last but not least, after a quick visit to the always bustling Fairway, we were loading up the car and caught the magnificent sunset above. Free Fall at BWAC continues through October 26th. Catch this impressive show before it's too late. And remember to take a look at the BWAC auction and lots of great work for sale by exhibiting artists. Remember too, support living artists !

Details on upcoming performances are here:

www.bwac.org

Friday, October 10, 2008

"THE END OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM ?" : Closing of World Markets? - A Brand New Day

Has advanced capitalism in fact swung so far in a free-market direction that it now must be restrained, into a more central/nationally controlled model as we see in China and other nations ? That's how things are looking...

Italy's Bloomberg, Silvio Berlusconi, reports that thought is given to closing world financial markets in order to retrench and regroup:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aP5mpMUORBWM

Washington Post: "With the U.S. government's current push toward intervention and the soul-searching over the role of deregulation in the crisis, the stage appears to be at least temporarily set for a more restrained model of free enterprise, particularly in financial markets.

"If you look around the world, China is doing pretty good right now, and the U.S. isn't," said C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "You may see a push back from globalization in the financial markets."


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/09/AR2008100903425_pf.html

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Spiritual Technology: Getting Unstuck on Yom Kippur

Well, the pleasant reflections of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, that usher in the Days of Awe are over and it is time to get down to business, so to speak, with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Despite the social, political and economic ramifications, past, present and future, that are swirling around the current economic realignment, it always comes down to The Personal. The assessment of the Who, the Why and the What of One's Life, where I've been and where I am going. Beyond the legal and ethical, the morality and spirituality of existence on this gorgeous blue orb hanging in the firmament, that may be just a spark in existence, if not fashioned, then perhaps emanating from the "Source." If all politics is ultimately personal, and despite the complex questioning inherent in Bill Maher's Religulous, then surely, at the end of the day, Spiritual (if not "religious") matters.

Somehow, whether anyone or any higher power is concerned with our behavior or actions is not ultimately the issue. As living, breathing, thinking beings, we have knowledge and internal lives, and somewhere depth and knowledge. To live in some kind of harmony first and foremost with ourselves, this offers a time for reflection, for consideration, and perhaps, although there are never any guaranteees, for growth.

I heard from our oldest daughter who is in Study Abroadland and who I miss alot and who sounded somewhat detached from this new season. I sent her the article below which I found and seemed to offer a little Spiritual Technology and prodding on getting a handle on the day of Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown tonite. See you on the other side.

http://www.aish.com/hhyomk/hhyomkdefault/Getting_Unstuck_on_Yom_Kippur.asp

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bounty in Brooklyn Heights: King Harvest Shall Surely Come

An amazing day in Brooklyn Heights. The graceful rays of the autumn sun, the air temperature just perfect, brought out the lunchtime crowds to the Tuesday Greenmarket on Cadman Plaza near Brooklyn Borough Hall and the Supreme Court Building. Tomatoes, fruits, flowers, dozens of types of fresh fall apples (with many to sample), baked goods, and of course, pumpkins and gourds as a reminder that autumn is here. The crowds are quiet, almost contemplative, of nature's bounty and the pleasure of a Fall afternoon. I don't always get out of the office at lunchtime, although I know I should. But a fantastic day like this, almost lets you forget for a moment, almost, about politics, economics, and the like, and just revel in the simple pleasure of being another working stiff on a lunch break, on a lovely day, surrounded by natural colors, in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Into the Abyss: Global Economy = Terra Incognito

This is edgy stuff. The Financial crisis moved into the Wall Street crisis and now, It is morphing into a global economic crisis. What does it mean? Where will it all go? We are in uncertain times. All bets--and assumptions-- appear to be off.

Mad Dog on the Markets: Get out now unless you can handle a lonnnnng wait:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27045699

NY Magazne on Wall Street, Fall of 2009:

http://nymag.com/news/businessfinance/bottomline/51007/

Dow drops under 10,000. WSJ: "Deepening fear that the global economy is ailing beyond the capacity of policy makers to cure it sent stocks sharply lower on Monday."

"The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls below 10000 as financial turmoil in Europe heightens. WSJ's David Gaffen parses the reasons behind the drop and how soon we can see the effects of the recently passed bailout bill. "(Oct. 6)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122328868571207285.html

The Euro is a coordinated currency among member nations without a central bank. Only the US can pump out cash as we are doing now, although its ultimate impact is unknown. The American dollar and Treasury strengthens as it is called on to provide reserves to other countries:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/3141428/Germany-takes-hot-seat-as-Europe-falls-into-the-abyss.html

But always a ray of sunshine; Capitalism to the Rescue: venture capital & emerging green technologies. The Next Frontier?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/magazine/05Green-t.html?ref=magazine

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Brooklyn Party Cake, Telltale Signs, and Tales of Absolute Zero

Brooklyn Beat turned 54 yesterday . Yep, 54 years ago in Samaritan Hospital on President Street between 6th and seventh avenues, which is now, in the best of Park Slope's pre-Bailout/Economic Crisis Days, an apartment complex . Last evening, I arrived home from the office and our younger daughters, 13, were hard at work making a birthday cake from scratch. Since we are already in October, and Rosh Hashanah had just passed, one of my daughters is already anticipating holiday year-end mode, sneaking "Rat Pack" holiday CD onto the player, where I am still in "In the Fiddler's House"-Izthak Perlman/Klezmatics/"Flatbush Waltz" mode in the remaining days leading up to Yom Kippur. Anyway, we settled on an autumn-themed birthday cake, which Ilana designed and put the finishing touches on, along with Gaby. It was an amazing job, a layer of chocolate cake topping a layer of vanilla with lovely icing in a riot of color that somehow combined the amazon rainforest with Flatbush forests in autumn.

What made this more amazing was that they fashioned it using our antique stove, which came with the house when we got here 8 years ago but somehow, despite constant 'plaints, never got around to replacing. It is a monstrosity that looks like a Buick Roadmaster, all grillworke and chrome and dials. It has a ton of charm and four burners (that function more like rocket afterburners) and an oven that has basically two operating temperatures, Absolute Zero and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, we have always managed to do an amazing amount of cooking and baking with it. It has large side and bottom broilers. It also used to have an internal thermometer probe that you could stick in a roast and use to monitor cooking temperatures...Well, despite all of this classic, aged, quasi-functional cooking technology, the homemade party cake was yummy, delicioso, and, as always, a work of art.

One of the great things about getting older (if not the only thing) is that the gifts get better. The kids are attuned to my interests and managed to get me "Indignation" the new Philip Roth book, the Blade Runner super special edition from my son, and other extra special goodies from my Mrs.... I also got a Euro birthday card from our Study Abroad child. The cards are always odd and off-kilter and I love it. Last but not least, I got the new Tell Tale Signs, Bootleg Vol 8, which they picked up at the always neat Music Matters in the Slope...it's another fascinating CD, many outtakes and amazing classic Dylan left-off tunes, along with excellent, really excellent liner notes by Larry "Ratso [Rizzo]" Sloman who authored the classic gonzo rock journalism tome, "On the Road with Bob Dylan" on the Rolling Thunder tour. The notes, like the album, deal with the late Dylan oeuvre, and are poignant, funny, thoughtful and moving, with a lot of inside info on various Dylan projects from the 80s til now. So far, another juicy Dylan package that I can't wait to delve into further. More later.

Friday, October 3, 2008

American Syzygy


photo by Brooklyn Beat/TN 2008

syz·y·gy a pair of related things that are either similar or opposite

If the Democratic Party could muster the ruthless campaign operational style of the GOP, as conceived by Lee Atwater and honed by Karl Rove, would they still be the Democratic Party? Last night's media event shows the complexity of the Obama campaign's desire to play by different, non-combative rules. Funny, you would think that the Democrats were the incumbents. Even though a relative political novice, Governor Palin was a very effective media presence, talking right to the audience. She made for very strong TV. She hit a lot of the right notes, right down to the adorable children. What can one say? While I imagine in a lot of clubs and bars on the coasts or on college campuses, schooled in semiotics and deconstruction, you can easily read the message and sharp media preparations that she clearly received. But I dare say that to a lot of folks, including many working stiffs in NYC, she seemed quirky, a little daffy, but real. As Chris Rock said in his recent special, and I paraphrase, 'Bush messed things up so much for white men as political candidates that people are saying, give me a woman, a black man, a giraffe, anything but another white guy.' Senator Biden, no matter what, is limited by being the white, male political establishment candidate in this debate. That seemed to be the dynamic at play last night. But the election is for President, not Vice President. Let's see how all that will play out at the next round of Presidential debates when Senator Obama, hopefully, gives it the full court press and shows the American public that he, too, is a maverick with remarkable leadership capacity, a unique family story,and vision for new directions.

Clearly, after 8 years of the Republican Party in the White House, we need new executive leadership. Regardless of who voted for what, President Bush, a Republican, waged war in Iraq, was Commander-in-Chief on 9/11, had a major role in the post-Katrina debacle, and must accept responsibility for the economic mess. That's how it goes, if you are the President, you take the good with the bad. As a two-party system, the Republicans have shown us what they can do; we need new leadership and the Democrats deserve that chance. And make no mistake about it, despite all of the extremely clever debate tactics and rhetoric in which Ms. Palin was quickly schooled ("There you go again, talking about the past"), Senator McCain and Governor Palin are Republicans and it will, to a greater or lesser extent, be more of the same.

So, as the election campaign continues to generate stomach churning twists and turns, for the moment, I am still hopeful, but beginning to wonder if I need to set my expectations a bit lower.

Now Hillary versus Palin, now that would have been a debate. And McCain versus....? Well, don't get me started. But when it comes down to the wire, one gets the sense that people will respond more strongly to Senator Barack Obama's calm, intelligence and inner strength as the leader, at home and globally, that the United States needs at this moment. He will garner respect and offer hope, sensitivity and a vision for a new foundation and perspective that America sorely needs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Able Danger: Conspiracy Noir

I enjoyed watching and can highly recommend "Able Danger" a film by Paul Krik aka David Herman, that is an entertaining concoction of film noir, 9/11 conspiracy politics, and dark knowledge, with a Flatbush flavor. Ably acted by Adam Neer and Elina Lowensohn and creatively imaged by director of photography Charles Libin, Able Danger is pop conspiracy with a sexy rock n roll twist, if wanna you believe that hipsters may hold the key to the secrets of the universe, and who knows, perhaps they do. The focus on VoxPop and the featuring of VoxPop owner/gonzo journalist Sander Hicks' book "The Big Wedding" as a key document in the film gives it a wry twist. And the Able Danger tracking system which follows hero Tom Flynn on his mysterious errands as he tries to unlock the key to government conspiracies is a fascinating conceit that makes this film fun to watch. But it is hard to figure out whether the director's intent is to blow the lid off of the secrets of 9/11 and spread the information more or less sub rosa in the guise of an alternately serious and comic indy film, or if he is just using 9/11 as a handy narrative coil around which to fashion an arty and entertaining flick.This was playing around 9/11/08 at the Pioneer theater in the East Village. The marketing with 9/11 is a bit irksome, since I met and grew up with some of NY's bravest who were 9/11 casualties. This also explains the late appearance of this review. Whether the director thinks that it is necessary to feed us our conspiracy theory with a spoonful of sugar is likewise hard to figure. It is a twisted, dark, ultimately predictable little indy, but with enough pop sensibility, quirky flair, scenery chewing and local color to make it a very interesting 87 minutes with definite cult-film potential.

Yet rather than uncovering or revealing secrets about 9/11, while Able Danger does what it can, ultimately the film's message appears to suggest that enough time has elapsed since that grim day that it can be the subject of ultimately entertaining films, even to the gorgeous sunlight-suffused dream sequence shots of the film's hero on the roof of a WTC-ish tower that ultimately can portend no good.

Able Danger is a film worth seeing that deserves a wider audience. Perhaps truth, mingled with fiction, can reveal something worth knowing about the operations of power and the state, past and future. At the same time, as it ineters the popular culture, it can blend more easily with urban myth, rumors and dreams. Ultimately, Able Danger may unwittingly suggest that the secrets of 9/11 have been locked up good and tight, if not by conspiracy, then by the passage of time. And they may remain secrets, truths, that may never be uncovered.

http://www.abledangerthemovie.com/

Reflections: Who by Falling Stocks

Happy New Year, Y'all. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and the prelude to the Days of Awe, where, if you are so accustomed or co-religioned, you can take a little time to reflect on things like mortality, fate, the meaning of the mundane and the always lurking potential impact of the profound.

Brooklyn Beat and family have been moving through some gentle, G-d willing productive, changes. Our oldest daughter is away studying abroad until next summer. The next tiers of our kids are working on the alignments required in New York City in 2008 to apply to college and high school. Our son is 17 and, suddenly, though not finished high school, is beginning to develop his resume and identity as a filmmaker all of which he has discovered on hiw own, based on his own skills and contacts. Our younger girls are suddenly no longer quite children and finding who they are as growing individuals, as well as in the arts. As part of this, there is change and reflection at home and in our own lives, hopefully geared toward growth, simplification and preparing for next phases. We watched a number of films recently about life in America, in Russia, in African nations and in the middle east. We are aware how, even in its downturns, life in the USA is unique. Yet even here, as abroad, so many people live lives of struggle. There is a maelstrom, socio-politically, economically, and culturally that has begun to spin faster and faster across the world.

As a family, like many other Americans, we are not living large or counting our dividends or capital gains. We work, we raise kids. We live simply. We work hard, every day, at work and at home. We are concerned about our children's futures. Now, the confluence of the New Year, 5769, as in 2009 in the secular year ahead, with the economic crisis afoot, the coming elections give much to ponder, as we consider our own spiritual and material lives, and fate. As the Rosh Hashanah service ponders, "Who by fire, who by water, who by stones, who by wild beasts.." Who shall be exalted. Who shall be humbled.... But we are taking this time to look around and to reflect. The market crisis and its impact still lay ahead. Politics. Violence. Fate. As Zimmerman commented on the blues and traditional music, "The traditional music people look on on death as a fact, a literal fact." So we are finding time to slow down and contemplate our spiritual selves.

For now, we are counting our simple blessings and tender mercies.

Monday, September 22, 2008

'Not in Our Stars: Large Hadron Collider Incident Results in Multi-Month Shutdown

OK, it wasn't a black hole, or at least no one is saying, but Something Happened to require a shut down of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to Time: Although a final evaluation is yet to be completed, scientists believe the fault caused the machine to lose the near absolute-zero temperature it must maintain to operate. For now, however, repair work can't begin because the machine is still too cold; it will take about a month to warm up the area to a temperature at which replacement parts can be inserted. It will take another month to cool it back down, and given that CERN has pledged not to run its giant machine — which requires as much power as the entire city of Geneva — during winter months when Europe's energy needs are highest, Friday's breakdown could delay the actual smashing of atoms until early next year.

CERN spokesman James Gillies called the fault a "teething problem" and said that previous accelerators that used superconductivity — i.e., low temperatures that allow metals to conduct electricity without resistance — also faced early problems before "running pretty smoothly after they were sorted out." Even so, "it's certainly a disappointment," he added.

When it is fully operational, the $6 billion LHC will send beams of protons careening around a 17-mile underground ring, crash them into one another to re-create the immediate aftereffects of the Big Bang, and then monitor the debris in the hopes of learning more about the origins and workings of the universe.


More information here:

http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1843296,00.html

Bob Dylan: 'Mississippi' Redux

The Guardian (UK) has released an outtake of "Mississippi" which was recorded during the sessions for Bob Dylan's 1997 album Time Out of Mind, but which was actually released as a more produced version on "Love and Theft" in 2001. This is the first time the original, soulful, stripped down version of 'Mississippi' has been released

Taken from The Bootleg Series Vol 8: Tell Tale Signs, which will be available next week. I am looking forward to this intriguing new collection.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/competition/2008/sep/22/bob.dylan.download.mississippi

Frank Vincent Zappa & Nicolas Slonimsky: American Tunes

We are doing some reorganizing around our home, and I came across this while packing and moving some books. I never tire of reading this piece:

This is an excerpt from Nicolas Slonimsky's PERFECT PITCH (Oxford 1988).

One late Saturday evening in the spring of 1981, I received a telephone call. "Nicolas Slonimsky?" (correctly pronounced) the caller inquired. "This is Frank Zappa. I never realized you were in Los Angeles, and I want so much to get in touch with you about your book of scales." I was startled. Frank Zappa was the last person who, to my mind, could be interested in my theoretico-musical inventions. His name was familiar to me from a promotional record jacket showing him seated on the john with his denuded left thigh in view, and a legend in large letters: PHI KRAPPA ZAPPA.
We arranged to meet on the following Monday at 2.30 in the afternoon, and, at the appointed time on the appointed day, his assistant knocked at my door. I stepped out of my apart- ment and beheld something that looked like a space shuttle -- a black Mercedes taking up almost half a block of Wilshire Boulevard. I could not refrain from asking the driver how much such a machine cost. "Sixty," he replied.
It took us nearly an hour to get to Zappa's place in the hills of Hollywood. Zappa met me at the door. He looked like a leading man in the movies -- tall, slender, sporting a slight Italian moustache. For starters, I asked him the origin of his last name; he replied it meant "the plough" in Italian.
Zappa's wife came in, an ample, young woman, and served coffee and tea. Zappa told me he did not drink alcoholic beverages; contrary to the legendary habits of most rock-and-roll musicians, he never partook of drugs. But he smoked cigarettes incessantly, tobacco being his only, and quite venial, sin. Zappa led me to his studio, which housed a huge Bosendorfer piano. I asked how much he paid for this keyboard monster. "Seventy," he replied.
Zappa declared himself an admirer of Varese and said he had been composing orchestral works according to Varese's principles of composition, with unrelated themes following in free succession. To substantiate this claim, he brought out three scores, in manuscript and each measuring 13 x 20 inches, beautifully copied and handsomely bound. Indeed, the configurations of notes and contrapuntal combinations looked remarkably Varesian. Yet he never went to a music school, and had learned the tech- nique of composition from the study of actual editions. He had had a contract with an orchestra in Holland to play one of his works, but they had demanded a piece from his recording royal- ties on top of the regular fee. "I offered the a quarter," Zappa said, "if they would put up a quarter." It took me some time to figure out that the fractions he used were those in millions of dollars.
Zappa's teenage daughter flitted in, introduced by Mrs. Zappa as Moon Unit. She did not seem to be embarrassed at all by this esoteric appellation......About that time, I acquired a cat, black and white and plenty mischievous, which I christened Grody to the Max...
Zappa invited me to try out his Bosendorfer. I sat down at the keyboard and played the coronation scene from BORIS GUDUNOV which required deep bass sounds. Zappa was impressed by these Russian harmonies. He asked me to play some of my own composi- tions, and I launched into the last piece in my MINITUDES, based on an interplay of mutually exclusive triads and covering the entire piano keyboard. "Why don't you play this piece at my next concert?" Zappa asked. "When will that be?" I inquired. "Tomorrow. We can rehearse in the afternoon." I was somewhat taken aback by the sudden offer, but after all, I had nothing to lose. So I decided to take my chance as a soloist at a rock concert.
The next day I arrived at the large Coliseum in Santa Monica where Zappa's concert was to take place. A huge, towering man led me to Zappa's room. "Mr. Zappa is expecting you," he said, satisfied with my identity. He was Zappa's bodyguard, hired after Zappa had been attacked during a concert by a besotted admirer and hurt his back.
On stage I sat at the electric piano and played my piece. For better effect, I added sixteen bars to the coda, ending in re- peated alternation of C major and F-sharp major chords in the highest treble and lowest bass registers. Zappa dictated to his players the principal tonalities of my piece, and they picked up the modulations with extraordinary assurance. I had never played the electric piano before, but I adjusted to it without much trouble.
The hall began to fill rapidly. Zappa's bodyguard gave me ear plugs, for, when Zappa's band went into action, the decibels were extremely high. Zappa sang and danced while conducting, with a professional verve that astounded me. A soprano soloist came out and sang a ballad about being a hooker, using a variety of obscenities. Then came my turn. Balancing a cigarette between his lips, Zappa introduced me to the audience as "our national treasure." I pulled out the ear plugs, and sat down at the electric piano. With demoniac energy Zappa launched us into my piece. To my surprise I sensed a growing consanguinity with my youthful audience as I played. My fortissimo ending brought out screams and whistles the like of which I had never imagined possible. Dancing Zappa, wild audience, and befuddled me -- I felt like an intruder in a mad scene from ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I had entered my Age of Absurdity.

--from Chapter 23, "The Age of Absurdity" Perfect Pitch by Nicolas Slonimsky, Oxford University Press 1988

Slonimsky: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Slonimsky

Frank Vincent Zappa:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zappa

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge 9-19-2008: 'The German Parade' aka Steuben Day in NYC

Photo by Gabrielle Napoli 2008

Photo by Ilana Napoli 2008

Our younger daughters, in the 8th grade, are on a class field trip to the Brooklyn Bridge on this beautiful cool, breezy September Friday. They reported that there is a "German parade on the bridge even as we speak." Steuben Day in New York City.

Yes, New York, the one, the only. Now and forever.

--Brooklyn Beat

"May You Live in Interesting Times": The US and global economy - A Watershed for the Free Markets; the Beginning of a New Phase ?

The economy continues to roll on a rocky road. Economic surges on world stock markets. Russian stock market suspended due to market turmoil. US and London markets rebound based on promise of US intervention. How temporary, remains to be seen. It appears that the free market vision of the last two decades is now over as the role of government, whether short-term or long-term, appears to be a given. Now that the wisdom of de-regulation is suspect, will the US economy evolve into a more regulated, managed version of itself, to avoid going over the cliff ? Clearly, at this stage of advanced capitalism, something's gotta give. Will we evolve into a more European style of managed economy, or will the American cowboy version of capitalism continue to hold sway, where growth is the only thing that matters ? How will the economy and the government address the fact that bailouts are fine for corporations and the wealthy but not for the working folks ? What impact will this have on the upcoming election ? As the Chinese curse (or blessing) states, "May you live in interesting times."


Krugman on Federal Bailouts -- Done Right; Brooklyn's Own Senator Chuck Schumer and Sen. Hillary Clinton on likely next steps:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/19/opinion/19krugman.html


Freakonomics: The Two Steves on the Crisis
http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/18/diamond-and-kashyap-on-the-recent-financial-upheavals/?em

Thursday, September 18, 2008

'The World As We Know It Is Going Under': The Financial Crisis

Complex does not describe it. The current financial crisis continues to unfurl with apparently no end it sight. The New York Times devotes a 4 full columns of its banner..the Wall Street Journal gives extensive coverage. World press as well recognizes the enormity of this and its repercussions and ramifications. This is Big Time, Big Time.

Der Spiegel gives a very pressing perspective on this. The excerpt below followed by the full article:

From Der Spiegel - By Marc Pitzke in New York


The most breathtaking aspect about this week's crisis, though, is that the life raft -- which Washington had only previously used to bail out the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- is being handed out by a government whose party usually fights against any form of government intervention. The policy is anchored in its party platform.

"I fear the government has passed the point of no return," financial historian Ron Chernow told the New York Times. "We have the irony of a free-market administration doing things that the most liberal Democratic administration would never have been doing in its wildest dreams."


Panic is the word of the hour on Wall Street. Now even Morgan Stanley is fighting for survival. The commercial bank Wachovia and China's Bank Citic are being discussed as possible rescuers. The crisis has led President Bush to cancel a trip.

REUTERS
For traders, now might just be the worst of times.
The original plan actually called for humor. On Wednesday evening, actress Christy Carlson Romano was supposed to ring the closing bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to mark her debut in the Broadway musical "Avenue Q." She plays two roles on stage -- a romantic kindergarten teaching assistant, and a slutty nightclub singer.

After that day on the floor, the stock traders could have used a bit of comic relief. But it was not to be. Instead of Christy Carlson Romano, a NYSE employee in a joyless gray suit stood on the balcony and silently pressed a button. The bell rang and he disappeared. No waving, no clapping, none of the usual jubilation.

By the end of Wednesday, no one here was in the mood for laughter. The bad news on Wall Street was coming thick and fast. All the US indexes were crashing again after Tuesday's brief and deceptive breather. In its wild, rollercoaster ride, the Dow Jones lost about 450 points, which was almost as much as it lost on Monday, the most catastrophic day on US markets since 2001.

Investors were turning their back to the market in droves and fleeing to safer pastures. The price of gold broke its record for the highest increase in a one-day period.

Panic Is the Word of the Hour

Traders abandoned the NYSE temple visually defeated and immune to the TV crews rushing past. The disastrous closing prices were flickering on the ticker above the NYSE entrance: American Express -8.4 percent; Citigroup -10.9 percent; JPMorgan Chase -12.2 percent. American icons, abused like stray dogs. Even Apple took a hit.

"I don't know what I should say," stammered one broker, who was consoling himself with white wine and beer along with two colleagues at a bar called Beckett's. Ties and jackets were off, but despite the evening breeze, you could still make out the thin film of sweat on his forehead. His words captured the speechlessness of an industry.

Things got worse after the markets closed. Washington Mutual, America's fourth-largest bank, announced that it had started the process of putting itself up for sale. The Wall Street Journal reported that both Wells Fargo and the banking giant Citigroup were interested in taking over the battered American savings bank.

And then came the announcement that would dominate all of Thursday's market activities: Morgan Stanley -- the venerable Wall Street institution and one of the last two US investment banks left standing -- had lost massive amounts and was fighting for survival. Media reports were saying that it was even in talks about a possible bail-out or merger. Rumor had it that possible suitors might include Wachovia or China's Bank Citic.

China?

"Folks," economist Larry Kudlow, a host on the business channel CNBC begged his viewers that evening, "let's not let this magnificent country go down!"

End of an Era

In fact, it really does look as if the foundations of US capitalism have shattered. Since 1864, American banking has been split into commercial banks and investment banks. But now that's changing. Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch -- overnight, some of the biggest names on Wall Street have disappeared into thin air. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are the only giants left standing. Despite tolerable quarterly results, even they have been hurt by mysterious slumps in prices and -- at least in Morgan Stanley's case -- have prepared themselves for the end.

"Nothing will ever be like it was before," said James Allroy, a broker who was brooding over his chai latte at a Starbucks on Wall Street. "The world as we know it is going under."

Many are drawing comparisons with the Great Depression, the national trauma that has been the benchmark for everything since. "I think it has the chance to be the worst period of time since 1929," financing legend Donald Trump told CNN. And the Wall Street Journal seconds that opinion, giving one story the title: "Worst Crisis Since '30s, With No End Yet in Sight."

But what's happening? Experts have so far been unable to agree on any conclusions. Is this the beginning of the end? Or is it just a painful, but normal cycle correcting the excesses of recent years? Does responsibility lie with the ratings agencies, which have been overvaluing financial institutions for a long time? Or did dubious short sellers manipulate stock prices -- after all, they were suspected of having caused the last stock market crisis in July.

The only thing that is certain is that the era of the unbridled free-market economy in the US has passed -- at least for now. The near nationalization of AIG, America's largest insurance company, with an $85 billion cash infusion -- a bill footed by taxpayers -- was a staggering move. The sum is three times as high as the guarantee provided by the Federal Reserve when Bear Stearns was sold to JPMorgan Chase in March.

The most breathtaking aspect about this week's crisis, though, is that the life raft -- which Washington had only previously used to bail out the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- is being handed out by a government whose party usually fights against any form of government intervention. The policy is anchored in its party platform.

"I fear the government has passed the point of no return," financial historian Ron Chernow told the New York Times. "We have the irony of a free-market administration doing things that the most liberal Democratic administration would never have been doing in its wildest dreams."

Bush Cancels Trip

The situation appears to be so serious that George W. Bush cancelled two domestic trips he had planned for Thursday on short notice. Instead, the president will remain in Washington to discuss the "serious challenges confronting US financial markets." He said the president remained focused on "taking action to stabilize and strengthen the markets." Bush had originally planned to travel to events in Florida and Alabama.

So far, the US presidential candidates have made few helpful remarks about the crisis other than the usual slogans. Both are vaguely calling for "regulation" and "reform" -- bland catchphrases almost universally welcomed with applause.

Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain had the most to say. On Monday, he said "the foundation of our economy" was "strong," adding that he opposed a government-led bailout of US insurer AIG. But now he's promising further government steps "to prevent the kind of wild speculation that can put our markets at risk." McCain's explanation for the current crisis: "unbridled corruption and greed."

But Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama didn't move past superficialities, either. "We're Americans. We've met tough challenges before and we can again."

What else are they supposed to say? After all, US presidents have very little influence on stockmarkets. And Wall Street is expecting the status quo for the next president. On Wednesday an almost palpable mix of tension and melancholy filled the air above New York's Financial District. The beloved trader bar Bull Run was half empty, and many tables were free at fine-dining establishments like Cipriani, Mangia and Bobby Van's, which are normally booked days in advance.

At the side entrance to Goldman Sachs on Pearl Street, limo chauffeurs sat waiting for their customers, still above in their office towers cowering over the accounts. "If they go under," said Rashid Amal, who works as a chauffeur for a firm called Excelsior, "then I will soon be out of a job."


Der Spiegel Article:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/0,1518,druck-578944,00.html

Fearless Leader: Can you lend me a dime? Bloomberg on the "Next Wave Crisis"

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080917/ap_on_bi_ge/economy_bloomberg

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo