Monday, November 30, 2009

631 Dubai-Bye

631 Dubai-bye

There are almost seven thousand stories about Rachel and Tiger on line as this is written (see Shrapnel below.) There are fewer than half that number about Dubai World and its troubles. So we know where our priorities are, of course.

The phrase "Dubai Bubble" is starting to catch on, largely because that was exactly what it was. And now it's either burst or leaking depending on which account you prefer.

Incomplete skyscrapers, unfinished shopping areas, unfinished housing developments, unfinished roads... and the list goes on.

The quick story is very similar to every other financial story of the time: no money. No one was watching the bank accounts, and no one expected the boom to end -- ever. Now Dubai World is for all purposes, broke. No worries. The national bank of the United Arab Emirates has guaranteed its debt, which is about 60 or 80 billion dollars in US dollars. No worries. A mere bag of shells compared to some broke businesses here, and nowhere near the amount the American government has poured into the domestic economy, starting with Bush and continuing with Obama.

That 60 or 80 billion? Is it real or is it Memorex? Is this in actual dollars or is it something bigger that can be hidden in the backwaters and footnotes of a financial statement?

The Dubai World website, modestly named "The World," can show you pictures of beautiful buildings and concrete spreading faster than any known pandemic. Nothing's for sale. Yet.

How did it happen? Maybe a lot of people suddenly decided they didn't want to play golf in 130 degree sun?

The debt problems seem isolated in one corner of one company. But Dubai World is a government controlled outfit. And that can mean dominoes falling.

Not many remember that Dubai Inc. needed a bailout earlier this year, going off to Abu Dhabi earlier this year, like a neighbor asking to borrow a cup of sugar. The Sheik in charge of "World" had been telling people not to worry, assuring them for nearly a year that everything was just ducky, thank you. He went as far as telling critics to "shut up." But he hasn't been saying much in the last week or two.

There were reverberations throughout world markets in the aftermath of "World's" announcement saying it needed a payment holiday of at least six months. Try that with your Visa card, your auto loan or your mortgage.


--Former colleague Rachel Uchitel has become the second most famous Alaskan on the planet after a tabloid named her as the reason Tiger Woods and his wife were fighting just before his car accident, an accusation everyone involved so far denies. No one could blame Woods or any other awake straight guy for seeking her, um, company. But please know Rachel is a smart, hard working, funny, compassionate and warm hearted human being -- and that should count for something in the court of public opinion.

Weekly Book Look:

Ayn Rand and the World She Created by Anne C. Heller.

Anne Heller suffers from Gay Talise Syndrome. Talise wrote books about The Mob, the New York Times and sex. All three turn exciting and interesting subjects into mind numbing baloney. Heller does the same with Rand, one of the most influential novelists and one of the oddest characters of the 20th Century.

Fascination turns to stultifying by the time you get to the second page.

Rand was a Russian Jewish babushka, a troll who lived in a world of her own and manufactured trolls by the millions in the 1950s and 1960s.

(Note: there are two important definitions for "babushka." One is a headscarf. The other is a elderly woman, often a crone.)

But talk about influential! Millions of books sold, and all of them in print to this day, although her magnum opus was first published in 1957 and her other novels or novellas or plays way earlier. She is generally credited, and rightly so, with being the Grandmother and Goddess of the current arch conservative onslaught.

Yet, there's nothing much new in this book, at least not for people who knew her or followed her advice or peeked beneath the surface of the public Rand in her prime.

She was a bitch on wheels. She was brilliant. She was perceptive. She was screwed up. She threw temper tantrums. She treated many of her closest friends as enemies and drove many of them away either by turning against them or formally "excommunicating" them. She had a long running affair with her much younger Mentee-in-Chief, Nathaniel Branden. She treated her husband, Frank O'Connor, like crap and drove him to drink -- and to an early death.

We knew all this. But now we know it in dreary, colorless terms.

The Legend lives on. She's still widely read. Her "institute" founded by another sycophant, Leonard Peikoff, remains active and continues spreading The Word.

Part of that proselytizing is done by the right wing talk show crowd, which carefully avoids mentioning her atheism to their religious listeners and viewers.

As for Ms. Heller, her "About the Author" segment says she was managing editor of the Antioch Review. Most of us who graduated from Antioch are considered raging liberals today, some correctly. If she's part of the "some," it doesn't get in the way of her assessments.

The publisher, it turns out, is Gay Talese's wife, Nan A. Talese. Which explains a lot.

Richards Readometer Rating: 2 if you're a Rand fan or foe, otherwise 3.
Readometer Key:

1 - Buy it.

2 - Wait for the paperback.

3 - Take it out of the Library.

2. Flip through it at the book store.

1. Forget it.

Next week: Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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