Archive for October 22nd, 2008

Sharon's Covert Ops Gets You a Look Inside the New Stimulus Package

Sharon October 22nd, 2008

There’s been a lot of speculation since Bernanke’s testimony before congress and Bush’s flip on the subject about what the next economic stimulus package might actually look like.  The assumption is that no such thing has been put together by congress or anyone else yet.  But in their tireless attempt to subvert what’s left of our democracy and shred the economy, the singing duo of Bernanke and Paulson have a plan - they never rest.

Or rather, they do, and this is how one of Sharon’s Washington Division operatives managed to get a hold of an advance copy of the new Economic Stimulus plan. Hank and Ben, exhausted from their work felt they were entitled to a little attention.  Ben lamented that despite their generosity and service, most of the country just takes, takes, takes, coming to them for salvation, cash infusions and those little attentions that a skilled banker can provide to slake a gigantic corporation’s needs.

Who then, cares for the needs of our tireless guardians of fascism?  Well, after tuneless choruses of their own rewrite of a Cass Eliot song,  ”Bernanke and Paulson/They’re gonna get it all, Son/And Wall Street, you know where that’s at/ and no one’s getting fat, ’cept Goldman Sachs” the party broke up.  Paulson retired to a room with a cadre of recently arrived Ukranian hookers and Mrs. Bernanke, and Ben took himself off with a bucket of scotch, one of the lewder volumes of Neitzche’s writing and  his “valet,” and the two enjoyed their preferred delights, leaving their stimulus plan briefly unattended with a professional lady not presently required for the acrobatics in progress in what was colloquially known as “Hank’s Grotto.”  Fortunately,  this woman was one of my operatives, willing to throw herself on Hank Paulson’s body (perhaps the greatest of all personal sacrifices) in order to find out what the next step in the rape and pillage of America is and expose it to public scrutiny on the blog.

The plan includes a full justification for the expenditure of 300 billion additional dollars to stimulate the economy in the economy’s special places.  Among the justifications likely to appeal to congress are “Future generations won’t be voting for you anyway since you’ll have dropped dead from a coronary long before they reach 18, so why not hose them” and “What’s a few more billion when we aren’t going to pay it back anyway” and “Your constituents are so dumb that they will be delighted to short themselves on another year’s tax return and then pay interest on it!”

Ok, onto the contents of this fascinating plan.  We feel here that full disclosure of all the details is central to understanding that the plan will contain elements that suggest that their goal is to relieve the pressures on ordinary consumers, but in fact, focuses primarily on stripping them of their assets, enforcing the status quo, reallocating what wealth is left upwards and  ensuring the Iceland does not go alone into that good night.  Of course, there are a few special gifts to the deserving as well.

Included in the stimulus package:

1. Underwater homeowners with large mortgages will be given the option of refinancing based on the national debt - instead of basing their payments on the fluctuating value of housing, they will be given the option of purchasing a portion of the national debt obligations, and making payment on them.  Their reward for this investment in society will be the right to live in their homes as long as they keep making payments until the federal budget is balanced, or until the sun burns out, whichever comes first.

2. In order to prevent China, the major lender to the US, from taking its money and going home, stimulus will be needed for China’s shaky toy industry.  Thus, every single American, regardless of age, will be given four Tickle-Me Elmos for their own private, personal use. (Ok, you do realize that I can hear your thoughts through the internet right now(courtesy of Google’s new feature “google brainwave”), and I’m shocked, shocked and appalled at the crude and immature level of thought occurring at this blog.  Especially you, Edson!)

3. Van Jones’s “Green Jobs” program title will be kept, but the program will be slightly revised, to provide jobs in environmentally friendly domestic service for poor urban dwellers.  Thus, black and hispanic urban workers will be given the chance to replace fossil fuel powered cars with rickshaws (participating white families will be given green leather riding crops to signal their participation and concern for the planet), dishwashers and vacuum cleaners will be replaced with servants and solar panels replaced with “guys running on treadmills to sustainably power rotating tie racks.”  Liberal incentives in the form of tax rebates, will be available to wealthy households who wish to cut their fossil fuel usage by participating in this ennobling program.

4. In order to increase access to credit for a populace increasingly indebted, in which one in six is already struggling with a mortgage or credit card payments, new “Liquidity, Sicilian Style” programs will be enacted to force consumers to take on more debt.  First, the prices of basic commodities like food and housing will be raised further to ensure that no American can actually live on their income alone, thus pushing into credit markets those selfish consumers who elected to live within their means.  Meanwhile, large men with “motivating tools” will accompany small business owners and ordinary Americans to their local banks where they will offer their children, elderly parents or salable organs as collateral for further loans.

5. Because, shockingly, previous economic stimulus failed to prime the pump of consumerism adequately (far too many elected to pay down debt), instead of offering tax rebates to be spent as citizens prefer, each American will receive coupons and gift cards, good only at participating retailers.  Walmart and McDonalds (who is offer an extra large fry with the redemption of any economic stimulus package) will specifically black out any nutritious food or high quality goods.

 6. Meanwhile, to revive the flagging housing starts, Toll Brothers will be commissioned to build another 90 million units of 3000 square foot single family housing on prime farmland - and to immediately demolish each one.

7. The growing number of Americans who are now homeless and living in their cars will each be issued a large red star (yellow was considered but deemed to come with inconvenient historical baggage) which must be publically displayed at all times.  This will aid police in removing them from Walmart parking lots, which economists believe been the primary force in retarding consumer spending.

8. To bail out the troubled airline industry, it will be consolidated with the growing market for cattle and hog feedlots so as to receive a full share of agricultural subsidies.  Between flights, planes, which are already designed to move people much as they do cattle, will be used as squeeze chutes for hog and cattle butchering.  The airline industry then will institute a policy of handing out courtesy wet-wipes to allow passengers clean the brains, manure and blood from their seats.

9. The entire remaining capitalization of social security and medicare will be placed on lucky sevens at a craps game with the Devil.  Sarah Palin will shoot for America’s senior citizens and Joe Plumber’s hopes of not spending his last years tied to a chair in his own excrement in an industrial nursing home.  Palin seemed unconcerned that the Devil plays with loaded dice, since she believes her moose-dressing skills and faith in God will serve her well.

10. In preparation for its eventual sale to oil rich nations - now the only people left with cash on the barrelhead - America will be given a paint job, thoroughly cleaned by legions of “green job” minions and each of the midwestern states will be turned into one, giant corporate farm, ready to contract its total agricultural production to a nation without food or water, but with plenty of oil. 

No wonder Ben and Hank are exhausted.  Poor guys - just let them sleep.


Post Apocalyptic Book Club: Earth Abides

Sharon October 22nd, 2008

Ok, things have been shifting so fast that it almost seems as though it isn’t nearly as fun to read post-apocalyptic novels anymore ;-) .  I’ve fallen down on the job pretty badly - but am finally catching up on Hunter-Gatherer month.  So let’s talk a bit about George Stewart’s classic novel _Earth Abides_.

This month’s works have the pleasure of fairly high quality writing.  Stewart’s narrative is, I think, quite gracefully done, and watching Ish navigate through the process of discovery, of grief and its stages, the slow discovery of what he wants and a future for himself, the recognition that he doesn’t fit with everyone who has survived - in a sense, I think Stewart may have narrated the process of adapting to disaster better than almost anyone else.   

The book was written in 1949, and it contains some gender and racial issues from those periods, some of the same things we’ll see in Alas Babylon, written less than a decade later.  But like Alas Babylon, the book tries very hard not to stretch past that viewpoint.  Ish often assumes he’s smarter than his wife since he thinks mostly about things like the future of civilization, and she tends to focus on practicalities, but the book shows over and over again that Em is actually more attuned to the present than Ish is.  It is she who points out that they need a sense of time more than the retention of high culture. 

“Again he thought that was like a woman, to put even such an all-important thing as the very date in terms of her unborn child. But yet, as so often, her instinct was right - a great pity if the historical record should be broken at some point!  Doubtless in the long run, archaeologists could restore the continuity by means of varves or dendrochronology, but it would save a lot of work if someone merely kept the tradition.” (123)

Ish cannot but think in terms of maintaining the past - but the future reshapes itself, and shows his fixation on the past as a failure, a limitation in the end. In fact, it turns out that once they find a way to track time, the way they track time reshapes the narrative - the “Quick Years” section of the book picks up the way that time changes for them.

The book chooses to imply that the fact that the children lose literacy is mostly an inevitability - Ish tries, at least casually, to teach the children, but it never works, and soon, literacy becomes less and less relevant to them.  This part of the narrative seems the most unlikely to me - there are so many ways in which literacy might have had direct relevance - in which parents might have discovered new things in books, and transmitted them.  The idea that all the parents except Ish casually dismiss the value of literacy in life that  does not seem overly laborious seems strange and unlikely to me.  The idea that Joey is the single potential carrier of literacy too, seems strange.

In this case, I think Stewart needed to strip literacy off his society, and chose to do so in a rather inadequate way.  But it is a fascinating narrative, this loss of literacy and of civilization.  Ish tries to hold on, and we cannot but sympathize with his attempts - but neither does the book allow us to see them as right or true in all respects.  In the end, Ezra says that what those who survived had was what was most needed,

Why each of them survived the Great Disaster - that I still do not know.  but I think I can see why each of them survived the shock that came afterwards, when so many went under.  George and Maurine and perhaps Molly too, they lived on and did not go crazy because they were stolid and had no imagination.  And Jean survived because she had her temper and fought back at life; and I, because I went out from myself and shared the lives of other people.  And you and Em…”

But here Ezra paused, so that Ish himself could speak.

“Yes,” said Ish, “you are right, I think….And I, I could live because I stood at one side and watched what was happening.  And as for Em….”

There he too paused, and Ezra spoke again.

“Well, as we were, so The Tribe will be.  It will not be brilliant, because we were not like that.  Perhaps the brilliant ones were not suited to survive….But as for Em, there is no need to explain, for we know that she was the strongest of us all.  Yes, we needed many things.  We needed George and his carpentry, and we needed your foresight, and perhaps we needed my knack of making one person work better with another, even thought I did little by myself.  But most of all, I think, we needed Em, for she gave us courage, and without courage there is only a slow dying, not life.”

This reminds me of Annie LaMott’s claim that one of the lessons of life is that the people who are here are the right people.  The narrative claim is not so much that any of the characters was perfect, but that their collective strength was sufficient, and it made a people that were shaped, if not controlled, by their origins.

Ultimately, given the parameters the author sets out, I find the book both compelling and fascinating.  I don’t necessarily think that the outcome - the stripping of civilization, loss of literacy and most (not all - we are told that patrilineal descent among other things, is retained because people are still too American to make the shift) of prior culture could happen nearly as quickly as Stewart suggests, but the accelleration is, in part, a narrative quirk in itself - its pathos is increased by having a unified narrator tell the whole story.

What did you think of the book?