Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reality Bites

With the economy in the crapper and my dreams of owning real estate dashed, one might as well turn to fantasy.

See, my employer outsourced two more departments last week, and the rest of the hospital is going to be making 10 percent cuts across the board beginning next month, so I went ahead and picked up a couple lottery tickets for that $145 million jackpot tonight. I'm sure I'm going to win, and so I've been picking out dream houses in my local area that I will choose from when my fortune comes in. Let's look at one now, shall we? The first picture is right above this paragraph.

Here are the vital statistics. Casa LA is a 6-bedroom, 3-bath, 4435 square foot Spanish beauty built in 1930. It shares a gate-guarded street with only two other homes. The bones in this place are amazing. The asking price is $2,250,000.

And just to assure you that really, I'm merely a peasant with dreams that are modest, I leave you the top 10 most expensive homes on the market in L.A. today.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bravo, Mr. Herbert!

Reprinted without permission from the NYT, 1/26/2009, Op-Ed by Bob Herbert. I agree with every word. My job status is still in flux. Things seemed kind of stable for awhile, but then our CEO resigned abruptly, and now we have someone new steering the ship. Who knows where it will sail or how many hands they'll keep on deck. Here's the piece.

The Same Old Song

What’s up with the Republicans? Have they no sense that their policies have sent the country hurtling down the road to ruin? Are they so divorced from reality that in their delusionary state they honestly believe we need more of their tax cuts for the rich and their other forms of plutocratic irresponsibility, the very things that got us to this deplorable state?

The G.O.P.’s latest campaign is aimed at undermining President Obama’s effort to cope with the national economic emergency by attacking the spending in his stimulus package and repeating ad nauseam the Republican mantra for ever more tax cuts.

“Right now, given the concerns that we have over the size of this package and all the spending in this package, we don’t think it’s going to work,” said Representative John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who is House minority leader. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Boehner said of the plan: “Put me down in the ‘no’ column.”

If anything, the stimulus package is not large enough. Less than 24 hours after Mr. Boehner’s televised exercise in obstructionism, the heavy-equipment company Caterpillar announced that it was cutting 20,000 jobs, Sprint Nextel said it was eliminating 8,000, and Home Depot 7,000.

Maybe the Republicans don’t think there is an emergency. After all, it was Phil Gramm, John McCain’s economic guru, who told us last summer that the pain was all in our heads, that this was a “mental recession.”

The truth, of course, is that the country is hemorrhaging jobs and Americans are heading to the poorhouse by the millions. The stock markets and the value of the family home have collapsed, and there is virtual across-the-board agreement that the country is caught up in the worst economic disaster since at least World War II.

The Republican answer to this turmoil?

Tax cuts.

They need to go into rehab.

The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class. (Forget the poor. Nobody talks about them anymore, not even the Democrats.) The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare.

A stark example of this unholy collaboration between the G.O.P. and the very wealthy was on display in the pages of this newspaper on Jan. 18. The Times’s Mike McIntire wrote an article about the first wave of federal bailout money for the financial industry, which was handed over by the Bush administration with hardly any strings attached. (Congress, under the control of the Democrats, should never have allowed this to happen, but the Democrats are as committed to fecklessness as the Republicans are to tax cuts.)

The public was told that the money would be used to loosen the frozen credit markets and thus help revive the economy. But as the article pointed out, there were bankers with other ideas. John C. Hope III, the chairman of the Whitney National Bank in New Orleans, in an address to Wall Street fat cats gathered at the Palm Beach Ritz-Carlton, said:

“Make more loans? We’re not going to change our business model or our credit policies to accommodate the needs of the public sector as they see it to have us make more loans.”

How’s that for arrogance and contempt for the public interest? Mr. Hope’s bank received $300 million in taxpayer bailout money.

The same article quoted Walter M. Pressey, president of Boston Private Wealth Management, which Mr. McIntire described as a healthy bank with a mostly affluent clientele. It received $154 million in taxpayer money.

“With that capital in hand,” said Mr. Pressey, “not only do we feel comfortable that we can ride out the recession, but we also feel that we’ll be in a position to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves once this recession is sorted out.”

Take advantage, indeed. That, in a nutshell, is what the plutocracy is all about: taking unfair advantage.

When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen. Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles.

This is the party that preached fiscal discipline and then cut taxes in time of war. This is the party that still wants to put the torch to Social Security and Medicare. This is a party that, given a choice between Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, would choose Ronald Reagan in a heartbeat.

Why is anyone still listening?

Amen to that.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Two Thousand Whine

Wow, long time, no blog. I can’t believe I haven’t written anything since Thanksgiving. Hope you’re all having a good new year. As for me, frankly, 2009 is kicking my ample Italian ass. Without delving into minutiae, the overview is that my mom who came for a 2-week visit over the holidays is still here because of some orthopedic issues, and my dear sweet oldest cat, Alfie, was diagnosed with bladder cancer last week. My siblings and I are working through the former together, and I’m handling the latter as best I can given his ultimate prognosis. I opted against surgery for my little guy because of his age and some other medical problems he has, but he is on medication that will hopefully slow down the growth of his tumor. Realistically, though, he has 6-12 months, 8 months being the average for cats with this type of tumor. He’s lost a lot of weight (the reason he went to the vet in the first place), and now his little pink belly is shaved from the ultrasound that diagnosed him. He looks so sad and sweet.

Having a baby in the family at Christmas was great. Ava turned 6 months old on Christmas Eve, and she was baptized a couple days before that. I left the Catholic church years ago, but I nevertheless really enjoyed the ceremony. About ten babies were baptized, and it was fun seeing them all in their finery. Ava wore the gown her mother had worn, and she looked very pretty in it. Not a single baby cried, they were all so cute. Here’s Ava with her daddy, they look a little bit alike.

What I'm listening to today: Ulysses by Franz Ferdinand.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

I'm grateful for many things in life, but right most the top three are Barack Obama winning the election, my continued employment (fingers crossed), and the little sweetie pie pictured here.

Wishing you and yours a happy and safe Thanksgiving.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fire in Mid-November

Usually by this time of year, the Santa Ana winds have settled and fire season is over. Not today. It's November 15th, and Southern California is burning. I live 2 blocks from the beach, but the smoke from Yorba Linda/Brea fires 30 miles away blew down here, and here's the view from both my front and back decks in the middle of the afternoon.

It's a trip to see the line of demarcation, but there it is. Today was supposed to be a clear sunny day until it exploded in flames. You can see the sun shining through the smoke in that second picture. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost their lives or homes in the last few days.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kings of Leon

This tune just shot up from zero to heavy rotation on my personal playlist. Awesome.

Don't forget about Jon Hamm on SNL Saturday and the Mad Men season finale on Sunday. Bert's sister, Alice Cooper, ROFLMAO.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mad Fans, Represent

"Hello, it's Dick Whitman."

What up, Mad fans! Were you having a W.T.F. moment right along with me? The season is nearly over, only two episodes remain, and this coming Sunday's show should be epic. Don's surreal Palm Springs experience was awesome (as was that Neutra house he stayed in), and taking into account the timing along with the weaponry foreshadowing, I gotta think this season's climax is going to coincide with the Cuban Missile Crisis and everyone's lives are about to go nuclear. How did you like Betty's creepy "date" with the neighbor kid last week? Does anyone else fear that Paul Kinsey's not going to make it back to New York alive? What about Peggy's makeover by her new gay friend? What about poor Sal when Kurt came out of the closet so casually in the Sterling Cooper break room? When is Joan going to get her revenge on Roger (and Jane)? What do you make of the complicated feelings between Peggy and Pete? Will Don abandon his whole Draper persona and start fresh as Dick Whitman or some other new identity? (Doubtful, but an interesting possiblity.) Will Duck's takeover succeed or is Duck about to crash and burn now that he's hitting the bottle again? And who did Don send the book to? Is the blonde woman from the car dealership flashback going to figure into the plot before the season ends? Or Rachel Menken? So much intrigue, and I gotta tell you, I'm positively fixated on considering all the possibilities.

Ava's too busy sporting her little chicken Halloween costume to worry about the goings on at Sterling Cooper. She's focusing all her energy on being cute and adding some form of mobility to her repertoire of tricks.

Hey, remember a few weeks back when I was ragging on the show House? That didn't stop me from entering the "House Challenge" over at Polite Dissent. You just enter a list of 10 diseases you think may show up on House, and then each week, there is a scoring system based on whether your diseases were mentioned, tested for, treated, or turn out to be the actual patient diagnosis. I've already got 3 points this season. Here's my list, and I sincerely hope none of you have any of these conditions.

1. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
2. Hairy cell leukemia
3. Neurofibromatosis
4. Sarcoidosis
5. Diamond-Blackfan anemia
6. POEMS syndrome
7. Multiple endocrine neoplasia
8. Henoch-Schonlein purpura
9. Myasthenia gravis
10. Celiac disease

Only 5 more days until the next Mad Men. I can't wait. If you want to join a rabid but fairy cerebral Mad Men conversation, I recommend the one over at What's Alan Watching. Alan's reviews/analyses are the best, and he'a already received close to 200 comments on the episode that just aired two nights ago. And if you want to read some grade A Mad Man satire, check out Unbound Edition and prepare to laugh.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Recession or Depression?

I don't know about the rest of you, but my investment portfolio is down 20 percent since September 1.

Twenty percent.

In 40 days.

Add that to the stress that my job security is on liquifaction instead of concrete.

I ask you, is this a recession or a depression? It feels like depression to me. Or at the very least, anxiety.

I'm in my mid-40s. I'm a college graduate. I work in a skilled job. I don't cheat on my taxes. I've never been arrested. I'm registered to vote. I fulfill my jury service. I am, in short, a model citizen.

It's not supposed to be this way. What happened to the American Dream?

I'm asking you directly, Mr. Bush.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Just Sayin'

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mad Fans, Mark Your Calendars

Jon Hamm is hosting Saturday Night Live on October 25, 2008. Unfortunately, the musical guest will be Coldplay. While they are playing, you could go put on your jammies or fix a bowl of ice cream or fast forward. You guessed it, I'm not a fan of Coldplay. Anydraper, an SNL-style send-up of Mad Men is rife with possibility, and I hope the writers can do the concept justice.

I wonder if this means Jon is going to win the Emmy Sunday night for Best Actor. They pre-announced some of the Creative Emmys last week, and Mad Men has already won four of the 16 for which they were nominated. I think Hamm is a strong contender for Best Actor, his main competition will be Hugh Laurie (long overdue) and Michael C. Hall (also deserving).

Speaking of Mad Men, I've refrained from blogging about it this season, but that's not to say my love for it has diminished. It hasn't at all. I'm just waiting for the stories to reach a fever pitch before I explode in words about it. Now that we're midseason, that time is definitely approaching. But I'm going to wait a little longer, other than to say I literally laughed out loud this past week when everybody's favorite cad-about-town Roger Sterling uttered the words, "Duck, Crab; Crab, Duck." The expression on his face was priceless and is just one of the reasons John Slattery is up for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy this weekend.

And speaking of House, do you guys watch it? I've watched it only intermittently over the last couple years. I recently Netflixed the series to see if I would like it any better if I saw it from the beginning which often happens for me when I start watching shows at some point other than at the outset. It didn't work for me with House. I think Hugh Laurie is outstanding and positively compelling as Greg House. Love him. The rest of the show and cast... meh. I tuned in to the new season premiere this week and thought it was a pretty weak episode. I can't believe no one figured out the patient's ectopic pregnancy. NO DOCTOR would have missed that, up to and including first-year medical students. Even without that gaffe, I felt the new season started out with a whimper. I found myself checking the clock a few times, never a good sign.

Anyway, there's no Mad Men this week because AMC wants you to tune in to the Emmys instead. I guess they are optimistic for a big haul. I know I am.