Thursday, October 23, 2008

No on Prop 8 + Roubini + Polls + Empty Storefronts

It isn't too late: Proposition 8, with alleged heavy support from the Mormon Church, is in danger of becoming California law, ending the brief period of legal same-sex marriage in the Golden State. You can contact friends and family in California to urge them to vote no, and--yes, I know these are very tough economic times and if you have even any extra money someone is asking for it, but--you can donate here to the Vote NO on Prop 8 campaign to prevent the referendum from becoming law.


There's Krugman, and Summers, and DeLong, and...then there's Nouriel Roubini. A friend of mine who saw him on TV back in the summer but didn't know who he was described him to me in an email as "dour," and "grave" in his affect. She had it right; Roubini rarely appears to smile, though based on what he has to say, what is there to smile about? He's been quite right about the economic crisis for some time (like, going back some years now), and while he was dismissed or ignored for a while, he's now turning up all over the place trying to school folks about what's happening and what's to come. Dour and grave would about encapsulate it, because today he suggests that a "panic" might force a market shutdown. He had previously predicted the collapse of the shadow banking system, the run on hedge funds (which is ongoing), the continued fall in the stock market, the inadequacies of Paulson's original plan, and other horrors that have come to pass. I'm now wondering not whether but when this most recent prediction will come to pass, and have now realize how naive was my belief that the October 1987 crash, which occurred only weeks after I'd begun my first post-collegiate job, in commercial banking no less, was the worst I'd see in my lifetime. Even factoring the possibility of the country electing another George H. W. Bush (who was, circa 1987, soon to bump up an office, start a war in the Middle East, employ a passel of liars and incompetents, and drive the economy in a ditch), and remembering the endlessly colorful and depressing stories my late grandfather (like all my grandparents, and both my parents, for that matter), who'd lived through the Depression, used to tell about the hardships of that era (there were no jobs! people slept on railcars! you had to make a can of beans last a week! etc.), I can't say I ever imagined things would get this bad. And the terrifying thing is, they could very well get even worse before they improve....


I say I'm not going to look at the polls and then I can't help but look at the polls. Or sites that post the polls. And then I read the comments about the polls. Where people post more polls. And sometimes, as happened today, someone mistypes figures in a poll and I fly off the handle because the polls says that Obama is down 41-51 to McCain in Pennsylvania, Pennsyl-freaking-vania, and my dear friend Sally S. has told me that no Democrat wins the White House when the Phillies take the World Series (Tampa Bay won tonight), which has nothing to do with polling in Pennsylvania or anything else related to politics, at least directly, and though I'm not superstitious I have to go read another poll that confirms that in fact Obama is UP in Philadelphia, followed by 2-3 more polls that say the same thing, including that he's up in all the midwestern states, which means Indiana, which causes almost unreal elation and fear, and then I keep reading the comments section and the mistyper apologizes for reversing the numbers and others who've freaked out as well calm down, and then I realize I probably should get back to what it was I was doing, which is work having nothing to do with polls, but I feel myself wanting to click on a link to yet another site that has more polls....

Larry David offers a similar viewpoint, in his inimitable way.


Gas has fallen somewhat, a good thing, though not enough to make aimlessly sightseeing around the vastness that is Chicago worth it. Nevertheless, I still do take time to tour parts of the city that I'm more and less familiar with, and one of the things I've been noticing increasingly is the large number of unfinished and empty condo buildings, which had begun to sprout like shepherd's purse along the city's eastern spine radiating northward and westward from the Loop. I've also noticed the ubiquitous rent and for sale signs, as well as the unoccupied storefronts, especially on once vibrant commercial strips. This isn't to say that every part of Chicago north from the Loops looks like this, and some streets, like Belmont and Clark in Boystown, or Broadway in Uptown, look as occupied as they ever have. But it does appear that in some areas, things have rapidly accelerated since last June, when I headed back east. I looked online, and this article, in the Milwaukee Business Journal, says Chicago's situation is "fair." According to the Chicago Real Estate Daily, foreclosures in general are rising in Chicago, but are slower than the national average. The empty storefronts are but one cause and symptom of the city's overall financial crunch.


And from the annals of the outrageous, Austrian Naziphile ex-Governor of Carinthia and former Freedom Party leader Jörg Haider had a secret male lover, Stefan Petzner. Haider, in addition to having sung the praises of the Nazis and you-know-who, "voted against a parliamentary motion to lower the age of consent for homosexuals, [and] had presented himself as a family man who drank sparingly." Naturally. Haider engineered his secret lover's ascent in a new right-wing party, Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZO). The 27-year-old lover, who'd met Haider when he was a "beauty correspondent" (?), told the world about the relationship in a tearful, public breakdown. The Alliance, naturally, saw no future for Petzner as the leader of its ranks, and canned him. Supposedly Frau Haider knew about and accepted said secret lover. Sort of but not really. Haider died after leaving a gay bar so drunk he could barely walk, and then drove his car off a mountain road. Despite his extreme politics he was widely mourned. I'm a fiction writer and sure, you can make this stuff up, but really, do you? Do I? Does anyone? (Okay, yes, Thomas Bernhard would have had quite a go at this duo.) Does Hollywood? Another thought: had they been born in the US, these two (Haider und Petzner) would have fit right in with the GOP.

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