Weekly musings on the arts and current events.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Post Institutionalism

We don't need to hear that Americans are losing faith in our institutions--we feel it. Banks, rating agencies, corporations, government regulators, Congress, the White House, every one of them has betrayed our trust. I don't need to explain; it's in the news every single day. It's become a sty in our eyes.

Will our way of life erode as a result? I suspect so. For one, I don't think we'll have the same civil protections as before. Who will have time to follow up on the small stuff when giants are toppling? Will pot holes get filled when city work crews are being reduced? Who will check the legitimacy of butchers' scales, gas station pumps, taxi meters, dry cleaners' solvent disposal, auto and appliance warranties, or smokestack emissions, when most of the field inspectors are fired?

Another matter is the ability of corporations to honor their consumer commitments. My health club is in Chapter Eleven. They've fired all their friendly and conscientious custodians to bring in a cleaning contractor at night. About half the electric powered machines are shut down and the rest no longer have decent TV reception. The gym is only three years old, but it feels post apocalyptic. Another example, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio is in bankruptcy. I listen in my car and like it, but I won't renew this year until I'm sure they won't go silent.

We've all lost money in our investments so I bring up this next matter with trepidation. In my modest portfolio I had some cash in a money market fund at TD Ameritrade. I transferred my portfolio to another broker. Belatedly and accidentally, I noticed that the cash didn't transfer. I checked and found that the money market fund is "illiquid" and therefore all redemptions are frozen. I was never informed of this matter because Ameritrade hoped the liquidity problem would be "temporary", but after I pressed, they admitted that I may have lost my money. My point is that not only have the investment houses failed financially, but they have failed to maintain their former standards of transparency and confidence that once made America the safest harbor in the world.

We may have lost much more than money.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

25 things About Moi

On Facebook, there’s a new challenge to write twenty five random things about yourself. Here’s mine:

1. I once had an out-of-body experience involving Luciano Pavarotti.
2. Long ago, my grandfather gave me a pocketknife, saying a boy should never be without one, and so I never am.
3. The chocolate gods fear me.
4. Teaching is my calling, although I’m desperately disorganized and flaming out fast.
5. I’m not a great reader, except in spurts.
6. I keep a diary because I love to write—anything—even this. I’d rather communicate by letter or email than by phone. I’ve written a handful of good short stories for teenagers.
7. I’m vain about not looking my age, but embarrassed at how young I am on the inside.
8. People love to hear me tell Irish jokes, even though my brogue is sheer vaudeville. However, they hate my Jewish accent, even though it’s derived from real-life yids.
9. My nom de guerre—and this is a secret—is Humphrey Zoa.
10. I read and think about current events and politics a great deal, but I’m ambivalent about the direction we ought to go in—just a wishy-washy centrist getting more conservative every year.
11. I think religion has a pernicious influence on the world—and yet I’ve never wholly written off the possibility of God.
12. The flame of love does not die in me, even for those who aren’t right for me; even for those who have wronged me.
13. I love to drink. My cleaning lady is on a one year sabbatical (did you think I was going to say ‘bender’?) so when I vacuum and dust, I reward myself with Talisker’s, a tres pricey Scotch.
14. I have a woman friend who smokes cigars with me.
15. I go to the gym every workday. I used to jog, but can’t anymore. However, I still dream of running, or actually gliding, great distances a few inches above the ground.
16. I think the greatest story ever written is The Emperor’s New Clothes. Should be required reading for everyone in government and finance.
17. I’m not an idolater of any sort. I’m not awed by rockers; I don’t lust after starlets; I ignore celebrity gossip; and I especially don’t give a rat’s ass about actors.
18. I love to cook and sometimes pretend I’m the Galloping Gourmet.
19. I once had a roommate who was big on vegetarianism. I gave it a try and caught pneumonia. So I said to him, “What do you want me to do, die healthy?”
20. My zeitgeist quotient is quite low, especially when it comes to the music I supposedly grew up with.
21. I’m a big crybaby, but Marley didn’t get to me--probably because I’ve wept over pets of my own. The poisoning of my dog Chasco was one of my most wrenching experiences. It’s when I stopped collecting jokes.
22. I love to bask in the warmth of friendship, but I’m not always good at being sociable.
23. I would have been a great actor if I’d approached it obliquely instead of head-on. Don’t ask me to explain except over several glasses of the aforementioned Scotch.
24. In my every idle moment, punctuating each several thought, on first waking to last nodding, filling every respite from care, while quickening my resolve to care, I think of women.
25. I love my little house, but I want to leave Los Angeles.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Letter to House Minority whip Eric Cantor

Dear Congressman:

As a centrist voter and a Viet Nam veteran who proudly flies an American Flag, I look to both major parties to maintain balance and wisdom in guiding our country. In the last few years we have witnessed a sad succession of failures by the Republicans as they abandoned fiscal conservatism in favor of pampering their base. Now I read that you, Mr. Cantor, concur with Rush Limbaugh in hoping that our new president will fail. I am deeply disappointed in your lack of patriotism. In the darkest days of the Bush incompetency, I never wished for failure…not while we’re at war in the Middle East and real people are facing calamity occasioned by health care issues, job losses, and natural disasters at home.

It used to be that a new president was granted a honeymoon by Congress, but apparently those days are gone. The lock-step vote against the stimulus package made it abundantly clear that partisanship trumps patriotism. I know, I know, Pelosi et al were guilty of similarly misplaced priorities. But they’re the majority and their role and responsibilities are clear. What is not clear is whether we have a loyal opposition. Stonewalling to placate a talk radio host hardly qualifies while the economy bleeds jobs and our soldiers bleed blood.

So stop fooling around. We need greatness.


(sig) R. Lavin