Cider Press Hill

Throw 'em in dungeons

Wednesday, 3:12 pm

By Kate





Over the past few days, I’ve been watching the goings-on in Washington and on Wall Street—just like everyone else. And like most everyone else, I’m not quite sure what’s truth and what’s sheer hyperbole, either. Aside from the given that we are in big trouble. This government and Wall Street have ‘invested’ all of us into near penury and, they sort of threaten, we’re going to have a Great Depression II if we don’t do something right this very minute. I gather. Of course, the question is—just how big is the actual trouble? And what does that trouble mean to everyone (like you and me) if drastic action isn’t taken Right Now. Has anyone from the gov’t taken the time to explain this to us in detail? They want great gobs of our money, our children’s money, and their children’s money to do the deed, but I haven’t heard any clear and detailed explanations. If so, I’ve missed it and I’ve been paying close attention.

I’ve heard generalized scary memes and platitudes being thrown around. But I haven’t heard anything specific. And that leads me to think that several someones are trying to fleece us some more in order to save their own considerable wealth. I don’t think my meager wealth or yours is anywhere on their radar. I just get that feeling, ya know. I’d kind of like to know whether to expect a Great Depression II even if we bail out all these financial mercenaries. I’d put the odds at better than 50%. What kind of guarantees does Paulson’s revolving $700 billion line of credit offer us?

Today I hear that Warren Buffett has enthusiastically endorsed the largest bailout in humanity’s history. Because, he says, it’s absolutely necessary. Warren Buffett is an influential person and people do listen to him. Now if there’s anyone who understands money, it would most likely be Warren Buffett since he has almost uncountable amounts to it. But the thing is, Warren Buffett just bought a $5 billion stake in Goldman Sachs and he sort of has a vested interest in a bailout. He is quoted as saying, “If I didn’t think the government was going to act, I wouldn’t have done anything.” So, we see that maybe Warren has his best interests in mind first and foremost. I have to discount his concern and enthusiastic endorsement several notches on account of that. Warren is more interested in preserving his money, not mine.

It all seems to suddenly center around Goldman Sachs, doesn’t it? I’ve seen their name in the media more than just about any other in the past couple of days. That makes me suspicious. I do know that our Treasury Secretary was recently their CEO who raked in millions and millions of dollars during the height of the housing and housing investment boom. He made enough money in one year to finance my entire town’s school budget for the next 30 years. All the while the good times were rolling, did we ever hear him get up on his soap box to demand more regulation and oversight? Or alert the public to the unsound investment practices going on right under his nose? I think not. I’m assuming that Paulson isn’t a stupid man and, therefore, I’m pretty sure he knew precisely what was going on and what the probable outcome might be. Now that all the little greenbacks have galloped out of the stable, now he wants to close the barn door and post sentries? He wants regulation. We need regulation and oversight, he said in front of Congress yesterday. Yeah, and I have a bridge....

So now we’ve had the five big investment houses on Wall Street go under—plus assorted banks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the largest insurance company in the world (AIG). To the tune of multiple trillions of dollars, when it’s all tallied up. Because they were stupid and venal and greedy. They ignored every shred of common sense and violated the public trust in so many ways, I’m not sure we can even count them. I’m no economist, but even back in 2005, I was getting nervous thinking the whole thing was going to collapse and thinking perhaps I ought to consider selling my house while it still had value. You think the titans of finance didn’t know the same damned thing?

So, really. I want to know who is going to benefit from this $700 billion revolving line of credit that Paulson wants. Is it all of us or mainly the crooks on Wall Street? I think that since we plebeian masses are expected to foot this bill and suffer the consequences of Wall Street’s excesses in the coming months and years, we have a right to know exactly where the trouble lies in dollars and cents AND names. Do we really need to bail out the rich CEOs who got us into this mess? Will the world end if there is no more Goldman Sachs? We evidently will survive without Lehman Brothers (I’m still curious why they were the sacrificial lambs). Is there a better way for the money to be spent? I’m going to guess that yes, there is a better way. I want answers—crystal clear ones. And I’m not getting them. And, frankly, I don’t expect to.

I think that looting the treasury on this grandiose scale requires something a little more draconian than blank check bailouts and executive compensation, don’t you? I’m all for seeing heads on platters and the venal SOBs who got us into this mess reduced to penury. And jail time. I’d like it painful enough for them to remember it for the couple of generations. I’m vindictive like that and I’ll bet there are a lot of other people who feel exactly the same way. And if they don’t now, they will in the not too distant future, I have a feeling.

Beyond the larceny, this has the feeling of Shock Doctrine (Disaster Capitalism) to it, and I don’t trust that these people have our best interests in mind At All. The longer Congress thinks about it, the better for us. I hope they think about it a good long time. What are the chances? They have certainly heard from a lot of us, me included.

And if all of the above isn’t enough to worry ya, the IMF has informed Bernanke that they will be descending in the next couple of months to do a Financial Sector Analysis—a detailed examination of the entire US financial system. A rather embarrassing and alarming situation to be put in for the US who is, naturally, the biggest and best and most powerful. There’s gotta be some sly pay back in that decision somewhere. Nevertheless, when the IMF gets involved you might want to consider stuffing your mattress and hiding gold and silver coins under your floor boards.


Painting day

Friday, 10:20 am

By Kate




partly cloudy

Today I have painters in my house. They are painting my ceilings—a job that I determined I just wasn’t going to do. Although, now that I’ve watched them for a while, it was probably a foolish notion that someone else could do the job better than I can. It really isn’t that complicated. And I’m really, really picky. Possibly even a perfectionist when it comes to these kinds of things. And well, you know, it’s not perfect. And it will drive me crazy. And I will drive the painters crazy.

I should probably at least allow the primer to dry before I open my mouth. So far, I’ve held on to my restraint. I’d really rather they didn’t quit before they’re finished.

One thing is for sure—with all my stuff piled into the middle of rooms, covered with drop cloths, it opens whole new vistas of decorating possibilities. Also shows me where I might do a better job of cleaning....

Meanwhile, Abbie is crouched in the basement in terror. There are STRANGE PEOPLE in her house! There are THREATENING and CRACKLING plastic drop cloths all over EVERYTHING! There is the SMELL of EVIL PAINT. It’s all too much for a timid little kitty. Poor kid is beside herself. I put her through an awful lot, she would say. She might also say that I owe her for this HORRIBLE day.

The second coat of paint will get rid of the streaks, right???


Yeah, but

Tuesday, 4:04 pm

By Kate





As I was sitting here at the dining room table, watching my mourning dove taking her daily drink from the bird bath on my deck railing, a red-tailed hawk swooped down and made off with her.

Yeah, I know a red-tailed hawk has to eat, too, but darn it. I Love my mourning doves. They have only just started coming back after a previous period of being picked off by the hawks. Either I’ll have to find a way to protect the doves from above or I’ll have to try to stop attracting them. It’s just not right to provide a place for them to eat and drink so that they can become someone else’s dinner.


WaMu, Woo Hoo

Monday, 11:14 pm

By Kate




clear night

Catching up on the financial news tonight. Disasters seem to be thicker than fleas on a dog. I never actually wanted to experience a Depression....

Tonight my mortgage is with WaMu. I wonder where it’ll be tomorrow. Maybe JP Morgan Chase? Or Wells Fargo?(eh, maybe not...sigh) Or...? Whoever it is, I hope it’s a nice stable bank with a long future and one that doesn’t lose my loan or otherwise screw up the transition. Nervous....

What a mess. Tomorrow is a new day with new fleas. Can’t wait to see who or what circles the drain and takes the plunge.

By the way, today John McCain said the fundamentals of our economy are strong. He picked one heck of a day to deliver that gem. I’m totally inspired by his confidence.



Sunday, 2:30 pm

By Kate





A couple of nights ago, I finally called the lad. I hadn’t heard from him since he left for school. While that’s not terribly unusual, I thought I’d remind him that his ole Mom would like to hear from him from time to time. That and clearing up some of the unfinished business he left here all over his room.

The conversation didn’t go quite as I expected. Rather than being immersed in his social whirl, he said he’s been buried in books. As a defense mechanism, apparently. Three of his friends have died in the last three weeks. One perished in an ATV accident two days before he was due to arrive back at school. During the first week of school, one lad just fell over dead in the middle of conversation. Apparently a heart defect that had never been diagnosed. Last week, the third went home ill and passed away in his sleep. No one knows exactly what happened, but the kids think it may have had something to do with his volunteering stint in South America this summer.

Losing three friends in rapid succession is shocking to the system. For anyone. But young people do have a tendency to feel immortal and this has been a particular shock to their systems. I understand that gallows humor abounds and they sit around looking at each other wondering who is going to be next. Losing themselves in school work seems to help.

Well, I’m glad I called. The lad was ready to talk about it and I think he needed that outlet. I’m so sorry for him and his friends. And the families of the boys who died. So tragic and devastating. I know that death is a part of living and everyone experiences it at some point. But not like this or at this age.

It hit the lad and his friends awfully hard. “I never thought about my friends dying, Mom. We’re taking good care of each other now. We never thought about how fragile life is. I miss them.” That’s pretty heavy stuff for a 21 year old. 



Thursday, 5:20 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

This is Hurricane Ike. What a massive storm.

Consider that the Gulf of Mexico is about 800 miles across and Ike is taking up most of it...and still growing. Ike is now larger than Katrina, though not yet quite as strong. At least in terms of wind. (It will probably intensify tonight now that it’s going over some very warm water again.) However, the storm surge is already kicking up from Florida to Texas. I heard recent reports that Mobile, Alabama is flooding, the coastal parishes in Louisiana are under mandatory evacuation orders, and Galveston, Texas is also experiencing surge related flooding already. Some of the electricity infrastructure repairs in southeastern Louisiana, from Gustav, have been blown down again today. If this thing hits the Galveston/Houston area, I wonder how much will be left when the storm is past. This is an astonishing storm. Scary astonishing. The storm surge, anywhere between 15 and 20 feet, is like a wall of water the height of an average house bearing down on the coastal areas. Kind of like a tsunami. If I saw that coming at me, I’m pretty sure I’d die of fright before anything else. I hope the people in the coastal areas are packing up and heading as far inland as possible. My thoughts and best wishes are certainly with them.

This is what the National Weather Service says about the Galveston/Houston area:

Life threatening inundation likely!

All neighborhoods… and possibly entire coastal communities…
will be inundated during the period of peak storm tide. Persons
not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story
homes will face certain death. Many residences of average
construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread
and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere.
Vehicles left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads
will be swamped… some may be washed away by the water. Entire
flood prone coastal communities will be cutoff. Water levels may
exceed 9 feet for more than a mile inland. Coastal residents in
multi-story facilities risk being cutoff. Conditions will be
worsened by battering waves. Such waves will exacerbate property
damage… with massive destruction of homes… including those of
block construction. Damage from beach erosion could take years to

Meanwhile, hope you have a full gas tank at yesterday’s prices. Looks as if the price of gasoline in the southern portion of the US has already skyrocked and the rest of us will probably feel it to some degree or another for a while. Almost all the refineries are shut down, some have been since Gustav blew through. Remains to be seen how many will remain out of operation after this storm. No refineries in operation and closed ports equals no gasoline. Looks as if this is going to be a brutal September.


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