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Archive for February, 2009
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The Republicans are suddenly worried about spending our grandchildren into inherited poverty, but why the sudden change of rhetoric? Are they getting back to their small government roots, or are they just in a position to complain now that they’re in the minority? The Republicans have taken the role of the opposition minority party and so far, it seems like they’re much better at it than the Democrats.
In the ordinary course of things in Washington, D.C., and on television, there are two separate conversations. In one conversation, everything that the government spends money on (schools, transportation, police, etc.) must be trimmed back to save money. In the other conversation, the expenses of wars and the military must be unquestioned. After what he said this week on ABC, it will be interesting to see whether Congressman Barney Frank is permitted on television anymore. He combined the two conversations.
After a right-winger proposed more tax cuts to “stimulate” the economy and denounced any spending programs as not being “stimulus,” Frank pointed out that the largest spending program we’ve seen is the war on Iraq. Host George Stephanopoulos clearly felt the force of some galactic wind about to suck him into a different dimension in which the two conversations are permitted to overlap. He jumped in and said “That is a whole ‘nother show.” But Frank faced the taboo head-on, saying:
“No it isn’t. That’s the problem. The problem is that we look at spending and say oh don’t spend on highways, don’t spend on healthcare, but let’s build cold war weapons to defeat the Soviet Union when we don’t need them, let’s have hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars going to the military without a check. Unless everything is on the table then you’re going to have a disproportionate hit in some places.”
Late last year, Frank proposed cutting the military by 25 percent. When I spoke with his chief of staff, he told me that he thought 10 percent could come from ending the occupation of Iraq. So, Frank is apparently thinking of the military and war budgets as a whole and proposing to cut a quarter, with 15 percent coming out of the standard military budget. “If we are going to get the deficit under control without slashing every domestic program, this is a necessity,” Frank said. Now, I’ll be the first to point out that 25 percent is grotesquely insufficient, and that there is a perverse sort of unstated public apology here, in that Frank led the charge to throw $700 billion at Wall Street tycoons and has sat by as trillions more has flown out that golden door without any pretense of oversight. But when someone in power gets something right, our focus should be on moving it forward, not analyzing the purity of heart of a politician.
Two years ago, Iceland was top of the UN living index. Now it is in the frontline of the global economic crisis after the failure of its banks, reports Sophie Morris in Reykjavik.
Just a few short years ago, Iceland had much to be proud of. The good times were rolling so fast that one expected the country’s almost round-the-clock summer daylight to last all year. Business was booming, society overfed, and the capital, Reykjavik, was in vogue as a travel destination for rich revellers, gastronomes and culture lovers.
Iceland is a country of dramatic natural beauty: lunar landscapes, spouting geysers, sheer glaciers and craggy volcanic rock formations; an impressive but inhospitable isle floating in mid-Atlantic isolation. When, in 2007, it topped the UN’s Human Development Index for its high standard of living, literacy and life expectancy, the tiny community of 310,000 felt they had proved their educated, hard-working and resilient character on an international scale.
The previous year, America had abandoned its long-standing naval air station at Keflavik. Symbolically, the move set Icelanders free from more than seven centuries of foreign domination, first as a Norwegian and then a Danish colony, and for the past 65 years, less formally, under the wing of the US.
“The Vikings” had risen again, and this is the admiring title the country bestowed upon the small group of aggressive businessmen whose high-risk investing bloated the island’s economy to 10 times its GDP, buying up chunks of the British and Continental European high streets in the process. French Connection, Debenhams, Karen Millen, Oasis, Warehouse, Mappin & Webb, Hamleys and many more fell into Icelandic ownership. So did West Ham United football club. When Icelanders visited Copenhagen, they would strut into its smartest department store to buy expensive fashions from “their” shop. Like many British chains, it too was owned by the “Viking” Jon Asgeir Johannesson’s Baugur group: one in the eye for the mother country.
video by John Harrison.
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No one understood why a decade or so ago, “Sheba,” not her real name, subsequently herein known as “She,” gladly tossed aside her barely scuffed 27 pairs of second-hand cowgirl boots and tottered away from her vaguely glamorous if sodden dream-job of two decades as a professional, um, mainstream journalist, profiling more than 1.2 thousand of the most famous of American celebrities, Oprah included, in an award-winning nationally syndicated magazine interview column praised by some deluded Podunk media maven for her “ability to go up the aorta and into the ego.”
Only now, nearly but not quite completely recovered from her ensuing dissolute downward spiral of booze, drugs, pretty boys, whips, chains, Ben-Wah Balls, capsicum nipple paint, intermittent hooking, petty theft of rare Fifties flea market finds, compulsive fellatio, Pizza binges, Margarita orgies, filthy public poetry performances, sordid swing and swap scenes, bulimia, rampant hypochondria, fetishizing rejection and abuse as sexual foreplay, stalking, lascivious solo shows at the Fringe Festival, exorbitantly witty phone sex banter, garden-variety exhibitionism, and general self-indulgence and excess in the name of art, can She reclaim the books She wrote during that troubled, dissolute decade and offer them to the world for possible publication.
Hard to believe, but, all her life, or at least up until then, She actually believed She was well-balanced. Silly gurl! How could She be the last to discover She probably suffered from a maladaptive emotional syndrome known as “Hysteroid Dysphoria”? Meaning, someone pathetically obsessed with being the center of attention through any means possible: lurid language, loud clothing, intrusive laughter, exotic jewelry, excessive cleverness, peculiar-looking male companions, bitchy whining, aberrant sexuality, weirdly human pets, spellbound hangers-on, you name it.