Sorry I haven’t posted for a few days. But the holiday interregnum is now well and truly over, and the ordinary part of winter has commenced. Kids are back in school, the full staff is back in the office, and as of today the new Congress has been sworn in.

(Of course, that last part took place absent the junior Senators from Minnesota—although Franken’s win in the long, long recount, finally certified yesterday, is heartening, Norm Coleman’s legal challenge will delay things further despite being almost certainly doomed to fail—or Illinois—one can’t help but feel a little bit sympathetic to Roland Burris, but rejecting him as a symbol of Blago’s hubris is the sensible thing to do, and Burris certainly knew what a minefield he was stepping into. From Delaware Joe Biden is actually still there, until his successor is formally appointed on January 20; and likewise New York and Colorado will need new appointees Very Soon Now too, when Hillary Clinton and Ken Salazar move on to the cabinet.)

Even as things get back to what passes for “normal” these days, though, the transition is less than dramatic for those of us who remain involuntarily unemployed. (That’s officially 10.3 million right now, plus another 1.9 million “marginally attached” to the workforce—fully 2.7 million more of us than there were a year ago.) Under such circumstances today and yesterday seem much like the days before, and it’s a bit of a letdown. I’ve made resolutions for the new year, but the priorities among them are all too obvious—involving the search for some kind of full-time, productive, remunerative activity—and too many of the others are contingent on the outcome of that search. I want to structure my life and activities in a way that fits into some kind of larger framework, that has some collaborative aspect, some degree of institutional support or infrastructure, some greater meaning or consequence… but for now I really have nothing to focus on, nor to draw on, save my own inner resources. That’s certainly true for the job hunt, as well as for projects like this blog, and after a while it all comes to seem rather isolated and not a little exhausting.

Nonetheless, I refuse to get mired in self-pity and disengagement. Last year was a dramatic one, full of both excitement and adversity, and this one looks to be much the same, even if viewed more as a spectator than a player. For instance, even with two weeks left to go before the inauguration and the new Congress barely past the starting line, there’s already a flurry of opinion about Obama’s proposed economic stimulus plan, both praise and criticism from left, right, and center. I’m on the record as supporting something along these lines, of course, but I readily admit that I’m not yet up to speed on the details of what’s being considered (and nobody is up to speed, nor can be, on what will actually emerge into law); I imagine I’ll have more to say as things move forward.

(Right now I can say without fear of contradiction that it’s a tricky tightrope for any government to walk:  on the one hand you need to accept short-term deficits in order to invest in economic infrastructure and “prime the pump”; on the other hand that very government borrowing runs the risk of increasing interest rates and thereby slowing lending and deterring economic activity even further. So far this hasn’t happened—in fact, money has flooded into securities as investors seek any available safe harbor—but market psychology can turn dangerously quickly. Beyond that, I’ll merely add that the more the final package focuses on public works rather than tax breaks, the better; borrowing from the future merely to pay for present consumption is a big part of what got us into this mess in the first place.)

Meanwhile, on another note, things continue to get worse in Gaza, as Israel persists in duplicating its mistakes from Lebanon three years ago, based on the Bizarro-world proposition that it can (as I heard the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. put it on the radio the other day) “strengthen moderate elements” among the Palestinians by way of, umm, massively disproportionate violence.

Meanwhile, on yet another radically different note, the annual MacWorld expo is going on this week. Technology marches on, and the big news is that Apple will make all of iTunes (10 million songs!) completely DRM-free. Yay! The biggest music retailer on earth clearly sees which way the wind is blowing.

Meanwhile, the new year also promises lots of interesting developments in the worlds of film, and books, and comics, and being who I am I have no doubt that I’ll consume a great deal of that stuff, and write about at least some of it. Right now I’m working my way through the box set of The Wire—and reinforcing the conclusion that DVD sets are really the ideal format in which to experience television (at least, good television).

So all told, while my free time and levels of enthusiasm may wax and wane, I certainly won’t be able to complain about a lack of subject matter for this blog. (It’s never been a problem yet—far to the contrary, someone more iron-willed than I could pontificate about all this stuff 24 hours a day.) For now, take some comfort from the fact that I have a plan in mind to keep my “inputs” a bit more organized, as it were, and thus hopefully keep my “outputs” here a little more up-to-date and interesting as well… in stark contrast to today’s scatterbrained, all-over-the-map entry. (But hey, I know you all can humor me once in a while.)

Onward!…

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3 Responses to “Moving on into the new year”
  1. phil from new york says:

    RE: Burris and Blago. Since the appointment broke over the holiday week when I wasn’t exactly immersing myself in the latest developments in the Blago soap opera, I’m not well-versed on the whole issue. And unlike you, I don’t live in Illinois, so he wouldn’t be my senator. (We have our own little senate soap opera going on here in New York.) But my quick read of the situation is that like it or not, Blago is still the governor and Burris meets the qualifications of a U.S. Senator. So I’d be interested to know why you are opposed to seating him. As I write this, the whole argument may be moot because there are signals that Senate Dems may relent and seat him anyway. But I’d still like to know your thoughts because some liberals and liberal bloggers think the Dems are looking pretty stupid in opposing seating the guy.

  2. That’s a very good question indeed, and one we hear too little about in the media, even in times like these. I find the site shadowstats.com invaluable; it tracks what current economic statistics would be if the government reported them consistently, rather than changing its calculations to make things look rosier (as it’s done repeatedly over the years). The official BLS stats are bad enough, but follow the link and you’ll see that true unemployment these days is more like 16%.

  3. I could use some “institutional support or infrastructure” myself. I wonder what the true underemployment figures are at the moment.

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