Saturday, March 7, 2009

Simon "Scowl"

Simon "Scowl" and Paula "Ab-dull." One the genuine article, given his propensity for cutting "American Idol" hopefuls off at the knees. The other, each week giving new meaning to the word saccharine and more and more at a loss it seems, to put into words her assessment of the most recent performer. All of which only intensifies the frustration that Simon has for the judge to his immediate right. Contempt might be the more appropriate word, if you didn't sense the two have torn a page from the World Wrestling Federation's playbook, in which acting is more of a prerequisite than athletic ability.
You can almost hear AI's producer whispering in Simon's ear, "ratchet up the nasty and the loathsome. It's good for the ratings. But try not to humiliate Paula, as easy as that is to do, cause we don't want viewers, especially females 18 to 49, tuning us out. " No indeed, in a season where the ratings have taken a hit. (Although the show still remains in the top ten spot, evidence that some of the tweaking the show's producers are doing is paying off). Should that not hold up, they may want to try and put some real talent on stage. Hard to believe, out of the 100s (or is it 1000s?) they went through, this is the most talented group of "American Idol" contenders they could find. Hmmm, maybe they should have "Scowl" turn up the heat under "Ab-dull."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Bottomless Pit

With the market falling faster Monday than the snow blanketing much of the East Coast, you had to feel as helpless as the communities ill-prepared for what's likely to be this winter's last gasp. Unfortunately, we're all now understandably reluctant to say the same about the breathtaking descent on Wall Street.
There is no day any more, it seems, when it's safe to assume the worst is behind us. The dizzying free fall this time led by the post of the biggest quarterly loss in U S corporate history. All the billions it has already received still not enough to put American Insurance Group, AIG, back together again. The hope is that another $30 billion now on the way will make it whole again.
We are running out of silver bullets and are leaking hope that there's a bottom to this pit almost as fast as our 401Ks and IRAs are shrinking.
Certainly we've lost faith in those who are supposed to know better than we average investors who, only weeks ago, were saying, after the market fell to 8,000, that the worst was behind us. I mean, who do you believe any more? Or do you take some comfort in the belief that the blunders of the Bush Administration brought us to the edge of the cliff? Whatever solace that once offered is rapidly dissipating.
For all the points he's scouring in the popularity poll, you have to wonder if President Obama's exorcising the market's demons from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange would make a dollar of difference. (Although he might want to consider a visit there.)Small wonder hiding it under the mattress is creating a lot of interest these days.


It began long before the bottom fell out. To one degree or another, we all played a role in it. Buying that home or car we couldn’t afford, lying about our income status on mortgage applications, adding a big screen TV to the list of stuff we have to have, even rolling the dice a little longer than we should have on our 401K. Greed, upper or lower case, got the best of even those of us who like to think we’re cautious, responsible Americans, endowed with more than a fair degree of common sense. Granted the fire was fueled by an administration that was asleep at the switch and battered by one major foreign policy blunder after another. That aside, it’s the appropriate time for all of us to take inventory of ourselves and ask what we might have done to contribute to the morass in which we’re now mired. Yeah, it’s a lot to be asking of ourselves but it is, obviously, just what President Obama was referring to when he summoned us to be more responsible Americans. Part of the recovery package he and congress have authored is designed to bring relief to homeowners whose mortgages approach 40-percent of their grossly monthly income! Yes, those who played it safe are paying, will be paying for a long time, for those who didn’t. And the banks that enabled such fiscal irresponsibility are being warned they will be held “fully accountable”, as they should be. Equally hard to swallow is the multibillion-dollar bailout for Detroit, in spite of the situation the auto industry has created because of its own “bad practices”. “We can’t afford to govern out of anger”, says the President, but as Americans we can’t help but resent those who have placed such a heavy burden on us, in many cases, turned our lives upside down. The financial institutions, the banks, greedy lenders, and the millions who simply bit off more than they could chew, because they wanted it all and they want it now. Our ability to recover will depend as much on our collective resolve to forgive and move on as it will the recovery plan laid out by the best and the brightest in the Obama administration. Let’s hope they are just that, as for too long we believed we had those of that ilk at the helm before we went disastrously off course.