Of Barbarities, Beauties, Foreordained Foreclosures and The Two-Dollar Onion by Glitzqueen (aka The Other Katherine Harris)

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by The Other Katherine Harris

glitzqueen’s blog post

Aug. 23, 2007

“You, Doctor Martin, walk from breakfast to madness,” Anne Sexton wrote in 1960 of her therapist. The poem sprang to memory, in line with the contrariety of my own days. Each morning is a motion from atrocity to artistry, depravity to delicacy, fiendishness to finesse, as I contemplate our increasingly horrific news and then turn to acquiring, photographing and describing historic jewels.

The oppugnancy of these processes is more startling lately than usual, because my long-time middle ground — work on a novel with political aspects — has fallen away, in preference to juicing up websites for holiday shoppers. Despite war, economic dolor, climate catastrophe and Constitution-trampling, we Americans will spend the next few months with gift-shopping on the brain. Many fault this and of course it’s mad when people overspend. We also harm ourselves less directly by choosing presents that fuel pollution and our trade deficit. But the impulse to express love is never all wrong, is it?

Gifting — which may seem glib retail jargon, but actually encapsulates a meaningful human experience, from first thoughts of what might please to tying on the ribbons — is quite different from our ordinary modes of acquisition: both the purchases we have to make and the self-indulgences Shrub encouraged when he told us to “go shopping” after 9/11.

Now we can see that exhortation for exactly what it was: part of his “ownership society” campaign that extolled buying homes — and then draining them of equity to feed obscene corporate profits and a real estate bubble ultimately meant to shift still more assets into the grasp of the rich. And this is just a scrap of our general tattering.

We suckers of the lower orders are also being bled by their global trading and outsourcing schemes and wanton militarism; by our declining wages and benefits; by carrying the burden left by preferential taxation of the rich; and lately by the biofuels boondoggle.

Which brings us to The Two-Dollar Onion.

We normally buy quite a few groceries at a time, so prices tend to blur. However, the cost of one item snapped into focus for me, when I was rushing to complete a meal before guests arrived and discovered there was no onion for the salad. Thus I came to find that a single plump red onion now goes for two bucks.

That’s about what I thought I’d been paying for a whole bag of onions — the ordinary cooking kind, white or yellow — but, on my next shopping trip, I slowed down and noticed these have gone up by about a third. A closer look at the bell peppers stunned me, too. I remember being scandalized by the cost of those in midwinter, but here we are in high summer and they’re still a buck apiece for green, nearly twice that for red or yellow. Another shock was the doubling in price of plain flour tortillas — not even the corn type sparking tumult in Mexico.

With these recent observations in mind, news of sharply rising food prices didn’t exactly knock me for a loop. In fact, I’m inordinately well-prepared to argue that they’re far worse than our Labor Department is admitting. Take the supposed 19.5 percent rise in egg prices over last year’s. Where I forage, they’ve damn near doubled from about a buck a dozen to two. While I can’t dispute the 13.3 percent rise attributed to milk, since I loathe the stuff and no longer have to force it on a child, I’m confident that chicken and beef have gone up substantially more than 10 percent. Twenty percent is more like it.

Eggs, milk and meat are most directly linked to the biofuels lunacy, since the relevant animals live largely on corn, but just about everything at the food store has skyrocketed since Shrub’s Brazilian ethanol deal unbagged the cat. By then his transnational cronies had grabbed vast swathes of ground and begun burning forests all over creation, thus worsening our air beyond what their crops can hope to redeem. And he rightly reckoned no Dems would face him down on the brewing disaster, but instead would fall into line due to facing corn farmers in that Iowa primary.

So now — besides all the other factors collaborating to ruin those with least to lose — the Masters of the Universe have us over both ethanol and oil barrels, while automakers are panting to sell us overpriced new cars that run on both problematic fuels and every day more communities cede to corporations control of their most crucial resources, the land and water upon which lives depend.

Most victims, as usual, are paying attention to nothing but propaganda adverse to their interests. Even I — in full or near cognizance of the Conspiracy of Everything against us — would rather return now to thoughts of the exquisite Edwardian brooch gleaming before me, its perfect golden shells framing a rosy gemstone cabochon set in a collet with millegrained edges.

Among the things I know about it is that loving, careful hands brought it into being around 1905, when the average American family lived better than we do today and on the earnings of only one person. In inflation-adjusted terms, both adults now knock themselves out for only an 8 percent gain in income — far less than the cost of commuting, business apparel and child care, if requisite.

Yes, we’ve lost that much over this century, despite the little burst of advancement between WWII and the late 1960s. And, yes, the greedy will never be content until they have it all. They’ll assault us again and again, yet such barbarians will never understand beauty, even if it’s all around them. Their skill is to deceive, destroy and grab, not to create as workers do. And such love as is found in those cold hearts is just a form of ownership.

So perhaps it’s another act of resistance to our thieving would-be lords when we shift the light of truth away from exposing them toward appreciating love and loveliness. They can gloat over their crimes, but I submit after these musings that the rest of us hold the monopoly on real joy.

6 thoughts on “Of Barbarities, Beauties, Foreordained Foreclosures and The Two-Dollar Onion by Glitzqueen (aka The Other Katherine Harris)

  1. Many thanks for your responses, Lo and gadfly. It’s very gratifying when discussion ensues. So many words just go glug down the energy sink.

    Now I need to confess no recollection of that 1998 affair — but, if Krugman says there’s a parallel, no doubt there’s a parallel. I fear that conditions are mightily worse now, though, with virtually every category of asset (stocks, real estate, art, yada-yada) overvalued beyond beyond belief and long overdue for major correction. Aren’t we just riding for a harder fall, if stock market investors are “reassured” that gains will be endless — despite the fact that bubbles ALWAYS burst — and if already-strapped consumers are led to feel more confidence, instead of less? With Americans’ savings in negative territory, debt at an all-time apex and an overclass hell-bent on squeezing us dry, surely this is no time to place ourselves further in hock for more Chinese Dreck.

    In short, our choice seems to me Recession Now or Depression Soon. Of course, I’m no authority and I’d never claim to be.

  2. I too worry about inflation, but – in keeping with your analogy – perhaps tossing a bone to the sleeping dog will awake him and calm the growling dog? To quote Paul Krugman’s 8/20 op-ed in NYT, “Now, sometimes symbolic gestures are enough. The Fed’s surprise quarter-point interest rate cut in October 1998, at the height of the crisis caused by the implosion of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, was similarly a case of providing money where it wasn’t needed. Yet it helped restore calm to the markets, by conveying the sense that policy makers were on top of the situation. ”

    He wrote this in response to a small and unnecessary cut in the discount rate, which, he hopes, may show investors that policy makers are aware of the problem and will try to fix it. Consumer confidence obviously has drastic effects on the economy.

  3. Me again. I overlooked sounding off in reply to your hopes for resolution of the housing crisis. Personally, I don’t think the ordinary homebuyer (or investor) is of the least interest to Shrub and His Thugs. The Supremes have lately been riding no less roughshod over shareholders than other victims of corporate greed and malfeasance. Never mind that lots of this hedge fund derivative rubbish has wound up in pension funds. Why would the oligarchs care about those, when they don’t mind private equity raiders’ helping themselves to the pension funds of firms they take over? The present “crisis,” I honestly believe (and have believed for years) was a setup all along. In the trade, they call subprime deals “neutron loans” — because they eradicate the people but leave the houses (which the rich can then scoop up for peanuts).

    Of course Dems are pushing to overrule Shrub and his “regulator’s” opposition to letting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy the loans and provide better terms to buyers — but there are so MANY of these mortgages due to reset soon that the situation seems beyond redemption: There’s more than $650 billion in short-term subprime exposure, alone (and, due to lax underwriting standards, defaults are also expected in alt-A and prime loans).

    As for Feds’ ginning up some extra money for the banks (which will hurt us all in further inflation), that’s like tossing a bone to the sleeping dog, instead of the growling one. Conventional banks don’t feature in the present trouble, so it’s an empty gesture meant only to calm the market. (Of course I hope to gawds they don’t start throwing funds at the actual culprits who deserve to suffer.)

  4. Very insightful, Paul Krugman-esque.

    It’s one of the inconvenient truths of the world we live in that – although ignorantly worded – the “continue to go shopping” speech actually had some bearing on reality so the economy wouldn’t collapse; hopefully he’ll stumble onto something to get us out of the impending housing crisis.

    Despite the partisanship of the author, I usually use the below article to remind myself why ethanol is clearly not the best option for an alternative fuel. Thought it might be of interest –
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/05/the_many_myths_of_ethanol.html

    I can’t wait until the next president finds us a viable alternative.

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