Friday, October 31, 2008

More Totally OT -- Stickley, Craftsman, Greene and Greene

Those who have followed this blog any length of time know that I have an interest -- shall we say -- in houses and domestic issues, particularly as they relate to the period from about 1900-1960.

The illustration above is interior from Gustav Stickley's "Craftsman Houses" c. 1905 . There are a lot of Craftsman style bungalows in my neighborhood in California, and our place in New Mexico was started right around 1900 and has some Craftsman touches in woodwork and style, although it is not really a "bungalow" at all.

So I enjoy Stickley's magazine ("The Craftsman") and his books of houses that are available online through Google Books. As I page through them, and as I recollect my visits to all sorts of Craftsman bungalows here and elsewhere, I get very strong images of what life must have been like for up to date households at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century.

Something tells me it wasn't necessarily very nice all in all.

The Stickley houses are type models of what was Modern then. Their clean lines, built in furnishings, rational floor plans, and adapable spaces were all the height of progress at the time, and these houses were considered to be very easy to live in compared to the overly fussy and badly planned houses of the High Victorian era. Because the Craftsman bungalows were considered so advanced -- and became so popular -- Stickley houses seem relatively "modern" even today, though modern households have to undergo considerable adaptation to live in them. In my California neighborhood, the Craftsman bungalows are treasured, preserved, maintained in pristine condition, or if they have been mucked up over the years, they are restored to pristine condition, and then shown off with enormous pride by their owners.

Their owners scour the shops and online for genuine Stickley Mission Oak furniture, and they pay handsomely for the real thing. Authentic light fixtures, rugs, draperies, plein air paintings in rough oaken frames, family photographs and prints from the first decades of the 20th century (even if they aren't your family), colorfully bound books to fill the glass enclosed bookcases on either side of the copper hooded fireplace, a tall upright piano, all are eagerly sought. Brass or painted iron beds are placed in the bedrooms, bathroom fixtures are original or authentic reproductions.

The only place in these houses where significant changes are made is in the kitchens, which are often in the original houses, very small and dark and dreary. Sometimes the whole back end of the house will be rebuilt to make room for a decent sized and well-windowed modern kitchen. If I can find it, I will post a picture of a bungalow kitchen from about 1915, and it is a horror. It's poorly laid out, it's dark, and it's perhaps the dreariest room you can imagine a person working in, and working as hard as housewives had to work in those days, lighting a fire in the wood stove -- if she didn't have a gas stove yet -- dealing with the ice box out on the back porch, doing the laundry by hand or in a hand-cranked machine using tanks of boiling water, tanks she had to fill and heat on the stove, cooking each meal for hours and hours, and cleaning up in a dark and mildewed corner of the kitchen where all the pipes were exposed and nothing was ever really clean. There was never enough space for all the things she had to do, never enough time, never enough equipment. Just washing the dishes was a major undertaking.

While some of these houses had four or five or sometimes even six bedrooms, there was usually only one bathroom or at most a bath and a half. I've found only one plan with three bathrooms, and one of those was for the servant(s). Some house plans had no bathroom at all.

Bedrooms could be very large or very small, some of them no more than six by seven feet, barely enough room to get a bed into it and turn around.

Rooms were often dark, partly due to the dark oak or other species of woodwork, but also due to the deep porches which shaded the sometimes very large windows of the principal rooms. On the other hand, they were probably not as dark as some of the High Victorian middle class houses they came to replace. Those Victorian houses hid their rooms behind heavy velvet draperies, sometimes layers and layers of them, whereas the Craftsman ideal was for a most a double layer of window draping, and often we see no more than sheer glass curtains at the windows.

There was electricity, and most Craftsman houses were lit by electricity from the outset. But it was usually very dim electric light, maybe the equivalent of 40 watts tops in any one fixture, and often the Craftsman shades for these lights were of heavy colored glass or semi-translucent mica. Thus we see a plethora of fixtures, often four or six wall sconces, and a multi-bulbed center light in each room. Still, the night experience could be quite dim. There were very few electrical outlets in the rooms, and in early Craftsman-type bungalows, the one or two outlets in each room were the screw in kind which were certainly inconvenient to use.

Stickley himself tried heroically to encourage Craftsman afficionadoes to pare their household furnishings to only what was necessary and beautiful. Plain but beautifully made quarter-sawn oak furniture became the standard for bungalows -- as uncomfortable and inconvenient as much of it was. The discomfort of some of these pieces (particularly settles) cannot be overemphasized.

We own some oak pieces from the era, but we have avoided the settles and lounge chairs and such, because they are almost cripplingly uncomfortable (ymmv) -- not to mention cripplingly expensive if they are authentic.

But most of the rooms Stickley showed were sparsely furnished with a single center table, round or oblong, the top often covered with leather, an arm chair or two, a low stool, a drop front desk and chair, one or two lamps, perhaps a Craftsman piano, some pottery, metal ware, and sometimes small landscapes on the walls, and that's it. Everything else was built in or eliminated.

Most people really couldn't live comfortably in this sort of environment so they tended to fill up Craftsman empty spaces with cushioned furniture, bric a brac, odd items, and accessories.

I remember visiting an old friend of the family when I was very young in the early 1950's; she had a large-ish Southern California Craftsman bungalow built I would guess in the early 1920's or perhaps during the late teens. She had painted all that dark oaken woodwork an ivory color. The box beams were also painted ivory. If I remember correctly, she even painted her brick fireplace. She had lots of furniture, none of it Mission Style fumed oak except for her dining set which she and her husband bought when they were first married. Most of the rest was mahogany dating from the Thirties and Forties. She'd painted the dining room built ins, and they were FULL of china. It was spilling out all over the room. There were plants and flowers everywhere. Knicknacks, doilies, fragile ceramic lamps with silk shades, fussy lace curtains, all kinds of 'feminine' appurtenances were applied over the basic Craftsman lines of her house. She was a widow, her husband having died just after the War, and she had lived alone for several years. While she had no intention of leaving her home, she was constantly busy changing it, making it more "modern," and making it more comfortable.

Around here, most of the Craftsman houses have either been preserved as if in aspic or are being re-built as if they had been preserved. "Updating" them is considered little short of a crime. I was visiting neighbors not long ago. They've been working on restoring their bungalow for perhaps ten years, and to my eye it's pretty much done, but they aren't satisfied. Still have to restore the kitchen (modernized sometime in the Fifties). And one of the bedrooms still has paint on the woodwork. But the rest of the house reflects the Craftsman ideals in nearly every respect, even to the point of sparse, uncomfortable furnishings and dim lighting.

Pictured above is one of my favorite neighborhood bungalows. Obviously there's something a bit odd about it. It was built in 1915 as a firehouse, but it was decommissioned years ago and turned into a dwelling. Recently, it was bought by an architect who decided to restore and expand it (it's now actually two units). The results are quite striking. Down the street is a bungalow that's being rebuilt from the ground up:

The epitome of the Craftsman style of domestic architecture are the Greene and Greene houses concentrated in Pasadena but scattered all over California. They are amazing accomplishments of the carpenters', architects', and furniture-makers' arts, exquisite examples of the Craftsman style, and the surviving examples are treated more like temples than homes.

They are dark as caves.

These are some interior and exterior pictures of the Gamble house in Pasadena, taken soon after completion in 1908, just to give you an idea:

One of the houses in my neighborhood that I tried to photograph, not very successfully, is/was like a miniature Greene and Greene house, really very small, but with many of the strong design features that make Greene and Greene houses so unique. The exterior was shingled in weathered redwood (it weathers to a rich black color), with deep overhangs, exposed rafters, "artistic brick" porch columns, deep front porch, big windows, a redwood (rather than oak) interior with heavy box beams, high wainscot, plate rails, brackets, and so on, characteristic brass and copper light fixtures. Stone foundation, artistic brick fireplace chimney. The works.

There were some problems with rot and termites (odd for redwood which has been celebrated for its resistance to such destruction) and so the owners began a renovation project a few years ago, starting with the foundations and moving upwards. In the process, they essentially destroyed the charm of the house. They replaced the redwood shingle siding with what looks like Hardi-cement shingling, in a pedestrian gray color. It's not as bad as the asphalt or asbestos shingling that was put on many houses in the '30's, '40's and '50's, but it's bad. It looks just... wrong. They replaced the windows. This can often be a tragic mistake in and of itself. There is a tendency to put in dual or triple paned windows for energy savings purposes, but often the openings have to be reduced in size, or changed in some other way, and the window style rarely matches the original -- except at very great expense. So too many times, replacement windows in Craftsman houses look completely out of place. In this case the windows are fair reproductions of the orignals, but some of them have that sucked in look that characterizes some dual pane brands.

They painted some of the interior woodwork. The reasons were simple enough. Despite the big windows, the house is heavily shaded by ancient trees, and the interior was dark and gloomy, moreso than your average Craftsman bungalow, and the owners wanted some cheer inside.

Unfortunately, these changes have transformed the house from one that was very unique and delightful (at least if you didn't have to live in it) into something very ordinary -- if you can call any Craftsman house ordinary.

And that's the thing. As much as I admire Craftsman houses, I criticize them for being so dark and sometimes inconvenient. But almost never have I found a Craftsman house that was "ordinary." They may have many similarities, and some are duplicates of one another, but each one has a timeless feel and a unique presence. People who own them love them.

Of course there are lots of online resources availble.

The Gamble House, for example, has a beautiful site online:

Greene and Green Archives:


The Craftsman:


The Daily Bungalow on Flickr:

And of course there are many, many more.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


While it's never been my intent with this blog to get too much into religion and religious belief, my situation these days is one that allows me to listen to some of what is put out on Catholic Radio to a willing flock.

Yesterday, I happened to hear parts of an impassioned sermon against abortion delivered by a priest from the pulpit. He was doing fine, I thought, imploring women not to have abortions, describing in lurid detail what happened to their "babies" during an abortion procedure, and even injecting some humor into the picture when he described how he would have been a "one-issue voter" if the abortionists scalpel had been scraping at his left arm when he was still in the womb.

There are plenty of reasons not to have an abortion, and most women don't have abortions, so hearing an impassioned sermon against abortion shouldn't trouble most people, and it doesn't trouble me.

But then this priest went off the rails. And his argument failed spectacularly.

His premise was that abortion was the only real issue that mattered in this or any election, and his objective was to elect anti-abortion candidates, even if their records weren't all that pure, or even if they sometimes voted the "wrong way" on this all important topic. Baby steps. Can't make perfection the enemy of the good and all that.

But then he destroyed his argument, literally blew it to smithereens, with one of the most morally repugnant, indeed morally depraved statements I think I have ever heard from any clergy-man (and that's saying a lot.)

"But Father," he said someone asked him, "if you are such a supporter of the 'Culture of Life,' why aren't you actively opposed to the War (meaning the Iraq War)?"

And this man had the nerve to say this [paraphrase, of course]: "Well, I said to him, 'Look. Even at its height, the Iraq War was only claiming 9 American soldiers a day. Abortion kills 5,000 babies every thirteen minutes. Which is more important to oppose?"

This is not moral equivocation or moral relativism, this is complete moral depravity. The war in Iraq does not involve solely American soldiers, and the deaths and destruction there is literally "uncounted." We don't know how many dead innocents there are there, but there are a lot, all of them -- every single one of them -- a consequence of the American invasion. For this hideous man, this disgusting, depraved, appalling representative of the Catholic Church to dare claim that "only 9" American soldiers were being killed each day at the height of the Iraq War and therefore opposing the war was not as important as stopping abortion simply destroyed his argument altogether.

There is no "moral" foundation to his opposition to abortion at all. If he limits his knowledge of what has been going on in Iraq since the American invasion to the highest number of American soldiers killed per day and uses that as a basis for his relative passion against abortion and absence of passion against the war, this man has no business ministering to the public.

And this is one of many reasons people turn away from the Church. No, it's not a Mystery of God. It's a failure of man and it is a massive failure of the institution of the Catholic Church.

And it is not solely the Catholic institution that has failed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On the Radio

During this period of home hospice care, I keep the radio on the Catholic station for the lady's comfort. For myself, hearing the Mass or the Rosary is calming. There's one Irish priest who says the Rosary in what sounds very much like a trance of devotion, and it's surprising to hear it again and again. Some of the Masses presented on Catholic Radio -- from various locations like Alabama, Rome, and Spain -- can be quite moving.

It may help to be of lapsed Catholic persuasion. But I wonder what non-believers who have never been associated with the Church think when -- or if -- they hear the programming on Catholic Radio. Do they think of Satan? Hmmm.

Since it is an election season, the obsession with abortion, homosexuality, and "culture" some of the priests and laity on the station have is striking. Over and over, listeners are implored to vote for candidates -- and only for candidates -- who will bring an end to the crimes and sins aforementioned. When laymen address the topic with Church apologists and point out that many candidates who are opposed to abortion are all in favor of war, the death penalty and so forth, the priests and whatnot go into real contortions to justify voting solely on the matter of ending abortion -- as opposed to other "life" issues -- claiming that the Church and the Holy Father specifically condemn abortion (and euthanasia) whereas war and the death penalty are, well, sometimes condemned. Not always.

They also claim that while they don't and can't endorse any candidate (McCain), that McCain's views are closer to those of the Church and the Holy Father and that should be the primary consideration of Catholic voters.


Earlier today a priest was trying to explain "democracy" vis a vis the Church, claiming in fact that the Church -- while hierarchical -- was clearly "democratic" as well, in that the Pope is elected and for many centuries elections have been held at various levels and on various matters having to do with Church personnel and operations, so it is "democratic."


This seemed to be way of justifying Catholic participation in elections at all.

And always there are the callers who have to be cautioned against too much judgementalism toward their neighbors and relations -- who of course have fallen into sin and will burn eternally in hell for it.

It's... fascinating.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

OT: The Hospital -- parte dos

So she came home on Thursday evening, weaker than anything, with an N/G feeding tube down her nose and a Foley catheter to boot. She'd had a "cardiac incident" the night before that required heroic intervention -- oh, just call it a heart attck, but they didn't want to do that given that her discharge was already set up and scheduled, so "incident" it was, and what they did worked. Not a problem.

We carried her into the house on a sheet; she was too weak to stand, let alone walk. She'd been in the hospital two weeks, during which time she was never allowed to even sit up, let alone get out of bed. She wasn't allowed to eat or drink (the infamous "NPO") and for five days, she had no nutrition at all. Finally, they started feeding her through the tube, said she had to have a PEG in her stomach to feed her -- she couldn't swallow, you know. She'd been tested.


When it was pointed out that she'd been eating and drinking normally at home before she was hospitalized, and that she'd been eating and drinking normally the first two days in the hospital (before the angiogram and the stents), they were sore amazed. "It cannot be," they insisted. "She's so thin. She's obviously not been eating or drinking for months."

Sigh. So they tested her again. She didn't swallow the ice fast enough. FAIL! The pudding went down fine. FAIL! But the juice... she choked -- actually coughed briefly as it was going down. EPIC FAIL! "She can't swallow, it's proved now, shut up. We know what we are doing."

No. Actually, you don't. She hadn't had anything in her mouth for days. It really takes some gall to claim she's not doing it right when she has to remember what "it" is. Damn. She's 88 years old. You try to remember everything when you're 88.

But "gall" and hospitals are close acquaintences I've been told. And fifteen/twenty years ago she had her gall bladder out when they did the appendectomy. Made perfect sense.

Thin? Well, they weighed her in her hospital bed, 53.5kg, pretty darned normal for a woman of her age and size. Obviously starving to death, right? In fact she'd lost about 20 lbs of fluid build up caused by congestive heart failure (which is the source of most of her current health problems.) Her limbs are atrophied due to lack of exercise, cussedness and old age, but she's got plenty of meat on her torso. Somehow they missed that.

So she came home, too weak to even hold her head up, and we got her in bed, as comfortable as possible, and she said, "I'm home?" We said, "Yep, you sure are!" And the biggest smile you ever saw came across her face, just pure joy, and we figured she'd be... OK.

She had a doctor's appointment at the doctor's office (her primary physician rather than the hospital resident) the next day, and we went through the same routine to get her to the car and out to the clinic. Her doctor, who's been treating her for more than twenty years, took a brief assessment, looked at the voluminous paperwork in front of her, and asked: "Has she had anything to eat or drink since she's been home?" We said, "Some sips of juice. No problem." The doctor asked her, "Do you want to keep that tube in your nose?" She said, "No, it hurts." "OK," said the doctor, "it's coming out. It's gonna be uncomfortable, but I'm taking it out." Pull-pull-pull, out it comes. Doctor asked her, "Do you want a tube in your stomach for feeding you?" She said, "Do I have to?" Doctor said, "You don't have to do anything you don't want to." She said, "Then no, no tubes at all."

OK. It's set then.

We all discussed what's going to happen now. No more hospitalization unless she breaks her hip or something. Hospice care at home, she eats and drinks as well as she can, no more heroic interventions if she gets a heart attack, stroke, or pneumonia. She gets well or she doesn't as the case may be, she takes her meds, the nurses come to her, the doctor makes house calls, and we take it a day at a time.

She got 100% better right that minute. "Thank you!" she said. "I love my doctor!" Well. We all cried. It was just amazing.

We went back home. She was still very weak, but she obviously had more spirit and energy than before, big, big smile the whole way.

Nurses came, we explained the new routine, she was happy, they checked her out, treating her for this and that, change to hospice care, no tube feeding.

She's been home since the 16th, eating and drinking like a "human being" like she says, taking her meds, she even stood up, with help, yesterday. "I'm determined to walk again," she said. Yes.

The transformation from the hospital -- where she was getting progressively worse and they wanted to keep her for another 3-5 weeks -- to home, where she is progressively getting better every day, and she is so much happier, is startling.


That's the story.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Power

No king, no emperor has ever inherited the absolute powers that will accrue to the next president of the United States. This is the true -- and perhaps permanent -- legacy of the Bushevik Regime.

Our nation's government has been transformed from an imperfect and faltering constitutionally self-governing republic into an imperfect and faltering Imperial Autocracy.

And from all appearances, there is no going back.

The Presidency is now the defacto Imperial Court, the Congress (on a good day) is little more than an advisory body to the Imperial Court. Typically, the Congress is irrelevant. The courts themselves are primarily concerned with ajudicating and regulating the behavior of the masses. Any rulings they render with regard to the behavior of the Imperial Court and/or its personnel are promptly ignored or rendered moot.

In other words, our government has shifted almost completely from a Constitutional Rule of Law model to that of a an Imperial (albeit quasi-elected) Monarchy subject to the rule of men.

It was done practically overnight, with the full acquiescence of the Congress and the almost total disinterest of the public.

And here we are.

We are in the midst of one of the periodic and potentially deadly transition periods between one Imperial Interest and another. I happen to think that the Junior Senator from Illinois will be allowed to ascend to the Throne, but he will be on probation for some time, subject to removal for cause if he fucks up -- according to the lights of the Palace from which he will rule.

What the Busheviks have been astonishingly successful in establishing is a permanent Palace ruling Directorate that will continue on indefinitely. There has long been a permanent bureaucracy, but this is something different. This is not about government drones. The Palace establishment that is the legacy of the Busheviks is actually the motor of Rule by the Palace. Through key personnel placed by the Busheviks throughout the government and through their associations in civil society, a fundamental and ongoing "directorate" has been established that sets the parameters of Imperial policy and carries out the wishes of the Imperial House -- so long, of course, as those wishes comport with the determinations of the Palace Directorate.

The People are not sovereign. The People essentially have no say at all in the operations of the Palace and the projections of its Power at home and abroad. This is Autocracy, as absolute as any previous Imperial effort and with far more deadly and destructive power at its disposal, but it is completely alien to American representative democracy and to the principles of Constitutional Self-government.

Yet that's where we are.

And there is no going back.

There is tremendous hope that Obama will be a Good Emperor, and perhaps he will be.

But an Emperor he will be, nonetheless.

OT: The Hospital

A close and elderly relative has been taken to the hospital where she hasn't been doing all that well for the past week. The schedule at Casa Ché is such that my posting at Ché(WhatYouCallYour) Pasa may have to be light to nonexistent for the duration.

Just a note on hospital care in America. Those who have access to regular care -- as opposed to emergency room only care -- like those on Medicare, are sometimes lucky. The problem is that too many hospital procedures, and too many hospital personnel are keyed to "codes" which too often have little or nothing to do with and are incapable of properly caring for people.

We've had periods of utter nightmare this past week dealing with "codes" rather than care. And we've seen the consequence of "care to the code" and not to the person.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What will be saved? Anything?

if this were a just universe, the U.S. would have to be begging the IMF & World Bank for loans right now, and they would respond by having us slash and burn our few effective public institutions for the profit of foreign investors. -- El Cid in comments at Greenwald's Place

Yes. Well. The way the markets are crashing and burning, and the way that high end credit at low interest rates has disappeared, it's more than likely that what little is left of the New Deal will have to be sacrificed on the altar of the Confidence Game just to get through this next period.

Our previous incarnation being unsustainable -- but we knew that -- we'll have to become something else again.

In some sense, it will have to be a reversion to an earlier ideal, and Americans have successfully gone through that sort of thing periodically throughout our history. "Back to the Land," "Simple Living," all that sort of thing is ingrained in our national character.

But something else again doesn't just mean going backwards. It means finding some what forward as well. We won't have as much money to do it with. Indeed, we may not need as much money.

All the propping up that's been going on is intended to preserve as much of the financial and market status quo as possible. What can't be saved can be picked apart and recycled.

But the signs are that the markets and the financial system had become rotten through greed and corruption as well as fundamentally reaching the end of the line. The Confidence Game (see below) could not be sustained, there weren't any more pockets to pick, except for that of the Treasury itself, directly.

Trying to keep that system and its markets alive is a fool's gambit. Let it go.

Yet there is plenty from the past that is worth saving and building up.

Recognizing and doing what's right is going to take the whole country -- and then some -- working hard, in concert, to renew and restore full faith and credit in the United States of America, its people, and its ideals.

Some task, eh?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Confidence Game

Now, there will be all kinds of explanations for what has happened to the Financial Markets and Why the Bailout Isn't Working. But perhaps the best explanation I've heard so far has come from "This American Life" on NPR.

The System is a Confidence Game, a Protection Racket, a Ponzi Scheme, and the System failed because it's based on nothing but what can be squeezed from "below." And when "below" ain't got nothin', or it seems like it, Boom Goes the Dynamite, and it all falls to pieces.

That's what happened.

The massive infusion of money from the Treasury in the end will not affect the outcome measurably at all. The Game itself has stopped. Or at least the portion of it that the cash infusion is supposed to "help."

Parts of the Financial System are still working. Loans are still being made, credit is still available and the wheels of industry are still idly turning (not that we have much industry left). Some of the price inflation that has made people's lives so miserable has mitigated. What collapsed was not at the root of the System of Finance and Capital but was on the margins, in all those strange derivatives and credit default swaps and what have you, margins that were pumping lots and lots of essentially bogus and worthless "value" into the System, through a Protection Racket and a Con Game. Lots of workers in the Financial field got rich playing this game, and of course they didn't want it to stop.

But it had to. And when it did, POOF! All that "value" that was never really there in the first place, disappeared. And lots of people in the Financial Industry started screaming. The Bailout/Extortion was designed to prop up the marginal Phony Value sector until the most of the players had a chance to get out of it. It's not just too little too late, though. All these marginal products had become disbursed throughout the System, padding bottom lines here, there and everywhere. All this toxicity needs to be removed through some sort of purge of the System. The Extortion Scheme is supposed to buy up all the toxicity and remove it in an orderly manner. But because of the way things are mixed up in the System, that may be easier said than done. There may be a lot of failures of "fundamentally sound" institutions because the toxicity can't be separated any more.

This may be why the Graybeards and Wise Guys who run the System have been reluctant about or resistant to the notion of actually helping out at the bottom of this teetering pyramid of debt, by helping homeowners who are facing foreclosure. The foreclosure and subprime crisis has been going on for years. Millions upon millions of homes purchased in the last few years have been seized and families forced out of what they thought were their homes. It's tempting to blame them and ignore the elements above them in the System that caused the problem in the first place. But the reluctance of the System to help them in this crisis -- and there is certainly no urgency whatever to assist homeowners in a bind -- seems to have more to do with the fact that the System doesn't see the problem in foreclosures. In other words, it's never been about those subprime mortgages. In fact, the majority of those allegedly "toxic" mortgages are still performing fine.

The problem -- as far as the Wise Guys are concerned -- is well above the individual mortgage level and the value of individual properties. They really don't care what happens at that level. If it mattered to them, they would have called for intervention long ago.

No, the problem is all the "Protection" that's been sold and re-sold based on artificial and inflated values (not just mortgage and real estate values), "Protection" that is essentially worthless.

THAT'S what the problem is, that's what the Extortion is being demanded to cover.

There isn't enough money in any combination of treasuries to do it. Since it was all based on fantasy -- if not outright fraud -- anyway, the notion of covering these bets out of tax revenues (or more borrowing) gets into realms of faith and belief that beggar description.


It seems that the Masters of the Universe are trying to use the Hooverite pre-Great Depression methods to prop up the System, by covering some of the bets at the top of the teetering pyramid, and they will find (like Hoover did) that it doesn't work. It makes things worse. This time, though, the Masters have convinced themselves that it will work.

It's way too late to prevent the Finance System's problems, but it may not be too late to shift the focus from the "top", however.

As has been pointed out, some of the System, the traditional loan and credit portions of the System that don't rely on all the toxic products for "value," are working more or less well. There is some difficulty in some sections, but be wary of the auto industry's plaints, for example. They are claiming they can't get loans to purchase inventory on the one hand, but on the other hand, they're saying their showroom traffic is down by half or more. And they are trying to make out that the customer can't get loans, which isn't exactly true. The dealers can't get loans for inventory purchases. But they can't sell the inventory right now anyway. So what are so fretful about? They don't need the inventory. They can't sell it. Nobody is in the market for a new car right now.

So it is with many of the businesses claiming inability to get credit. It doesn't mean that credit isn't tighter than it was; it's just that things are not necessarily as bad as some of the louder voices want to make out.

Which doesn't mean they won't get much worse.

The focus has to shift from the "top." The Masters of the Universe got their demands met, more or less, but it won't do them much good. If the masses are unable to buy and sell and live relatively decently because they can't get jobs or they don't have homes, or whatever the case may be, then all the fussing over and currying of the Masters isn't going to make much difference. Attention has to shift immediately to the conditions ordinary people are facing -- should have actually been focused there all along -- and efforts to increase employment, fund infrastructure, energy transition, health care and education, and any number of domestic priorities has to enter the equation. Incomes for the masses have to rise, and those of the rich have to fall.

Fundamental to what needs doing is the revival of the notion of Public Interest, and Public Good.

When we get to that point, then we'll know the Reagan Revolution is well and truly over.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Done Deal

YES! The Extortion will be Paid!

We're SAVED!!!!

Except everybody says that nothing is going to change, nothing is going to get better. The Recession is On, and there is nothing we can do about it. Cinch up and bend over.

Foreclosures will continue as before. Job losses will increase -- perhaps substantially. Credit will continue to be "tight" and will probably get "tighter." (It all depends on who you are and what you want the money for.)

There will be increasing economic hardship among the Lower Orders (anyone beneath the Billionaire Class). Those on the edge will fall off, those in the middle will be squeezed toward the edge and those who are sitting pretty will continue to watch, exploit, and to loot.

So let it be written. So let it be done.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ah, the Pause that Refreshes!

Image: World War I Color Photos

So the Senate passed the Bailout, 74-25, their usual count on Important Issues, and this Christmas Tree of a bill will now go to the House, where something like it will be passed, and then it will go to conference committee, where something closer to the original Paulson Plan will emerge, to be quickly approved by both houses, and thence to the President's Desk, where he will sign it, and append a Signing Statement that will get it right back to the beginning and the Extortion will be paid.


We know the way these things go.


Of course with President Barack they won't go that way, but that's different. All of a sudden, the right wing authoritarians who have been backing every Constitution shredding action of the Bushevik Regime will rediscover that tattered parchment, and amazingly will insist on Adherence ThereUnto, without let or hindrance, and the Dems, being Dems, will say "Uh, OK."

And for years nothing will really get done at all in Congress, and the Presidency will not be used in its current Autocratic Mode, but will be quiet and persusasive and try to convince recalcitrant Republicans to do what is best for the Public Interest.

So obviously, nothing will get done at all.

Despite constant and enormous crisis from every direction. If things continue on their current path, it could well be that the Natives Around the World will commence to throw off the Yoke of Hegemony, assert their own Public Interest with people like Putin and Morales and Chavez -- among many others -- to lead them on their way to Freedom, Justice and Dignity.

It would seem that Osama's Plan is working just fine.

And why in the course of these recent events was the focus once again on the Duality of either going along with the Paulson Plan or Doing Nothing? Have they learned nothing during the disasters of the past eight years? The choice is not limited to something terrible or doing nothing at all. And yet that all our Ruling Class seems to be able to see. Ever.

And so... The Decline continues.

Welcome to America.

[Followup: The House passed the Senate bill without amendment, so there was no conference committee. Bush signed it, so far without a signing statement. Clearly all that Treasury and the White House wanted was authorization to spend the money, and they got that. Everything else was just decor. Something needs to be emphasized: the process in Congress and through to the signing was just the way the legislative process is supposed to happen. Except for one thing: the People were and are deeply, fundamentally opposed to this measure. Consequently, the Congress, though following set procedure, and pretending to act in the interests of the public studiously ignored them, except on Monday when the House rejected the bill. But the conclusion was foregone. There was no chance at all that the Congress would reject the White House demands in the end. No matter what the People wanted. Which, in essence, is about as perfect a deonstration of the corruption and futility of our legislative process as you could want. -- Ché]

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fear! Terror! Pestilence! Panic! -- Holding Pattern

Have a refreshment while awaiting the Senate's pleasure.

As I have repeatedly said, there is not a whit of doubt in my mind that the extortion will be paid in full, probably with interest, and there is nothing whatsoever that the People can do to stop it.

As the WSJ econ reporter said on NPR this morning, it'll only take a call from banker or two from each district where a rep voted against the bail out to convince the obstreperous Congressmember to fall in line. There will be a bail out.

And the common wisdom is that, yes, the bad actors who have been so very bad up till now will get even richer. And there is nothing you can do about it. It's the way the world works. And if you're lucky, you'll be permitted to survive. So suck it up. Keep your trap shut.

Anti-populism is all the rage among the movers and the shakers. They were, apparently, stunned that the Rs -- their reliable servants -- went all populist on Monday and voted against paying the extortion. So now there is a full-court press throughout the media and the Ruling Class to denounce populism in all its forms and to "educate" the public about what's at stake here: your survival, in a very literal sense, not the subsidy to the rich. They're gonna get richer no matter what happens to you. But if you don't go along with the payoff, you can kiss your sorry ass good bye.

The Senate bill supposedly increases deposit insurance to $250,000 per account (for one year), extention of numerous business tax breaks, and a "fix" to the alternative minimum tax. These tweaks are intended to make the bill palatable to recalcitrant Republicans in the House. Meanwhile, Blue Dog Dems are against these proposals because they increase the deficit. So the Senate bill's provisions may force more Dems to vote against it, thus stalemating again.

At no time, whatever, is there any mention or "serious" consideration of the Progressive Caucus' proposal, nor is there any mention in the media of all the warnings and dissents from leading economists.

Our world is ruled by neo-conmen, Republicans and Blue Dogs.

Buddy, can ya spare a dime?