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A Fun Book To Read

Between the Lines

OK so we’re sitting here tonight in America (and by extension the rest of the world) having our toenails pulled out slowly by the financial crisis and after another day of wild mood swings, the media is reporting that right now we have no deal. Or something like that. Don’t tell me you need a drink, because you know you’ve already had a few.

Which fits America very well and never so much as right now: the richest nation on Earth run by relatively wealthy people (in America, even the poor are rich, relatively speaking) who are equally divided in their ambition to thwart the other half. It’s a matter of emphasis, I guess, now that it comes down to how the American taxpayer is going to bail out our sadly deranged financial ship, but bail it out we will, eventually, because as far as I can tell, it’s either that or we can all get used to knocking on the neighbor’s door to borrow a can of beans. Pay now or pay much more later.

Meanwhile, our Congresspeople, it seems to this distant observer, are spasmodically and schizophrenically lurching from Yes to No while America — not Rome — burns and becomes the laughingstock of the world, if it already wasn’t because of the magnitude of the crisis. Circus Maximus, this. It would almost be worth the admission ticket if it wasn’t so serious.

Isn’t the answer simple? Couldn’t we just dispense with the theater and say: “Yes, our financial system became sickened by itself. 65 Trillion Dollars sick, and at the same time, investment bankers managed to leverage themselves into the position of being too big to fail. Incredibly vast sums of money are needed to bung up the gaping holes in the hull, before we wind up in World War III, or at the bottom, or both. Sure, the bankers and traders and derivative-hawkers screwed up badly, but you wanna hear the really funny part? If we let them go under, I hope we all enjoy sleeping in cardboard boxes and fighting our fellow box-denizens for the dry spot.”

So tonight, while I’m sitting here watching this theater play itself out, watching our politicians and media organizations look over their own shoulders and each other’s to try to arrive at a mutually repugnant outcome that benefits their own side most and hurts the other as much as possible, I thought I’d suggest a book. It’s not a classic of literature, by any means, but it’s a keeper, and it might distract you a little and make you realize that the words “America is Democrazy” have somehow been transliterated into our national DNA.

Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye.

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