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COMMENT:

Thinking About Intermissions

by Fred Cederholm

Despite the raging conflicts and massive economic dislocations facing the planet, the peace and optimism of the Olympic spirit is alive and well in Beijing for the coming days.

I’ve been thinking about intermissions. Actually, I’ve been thinking about interludes, the Beijing Olympics, the news, the markets, 2008, and the coming election campaigns. And I've been thinking, too, of Rod Serling's opening monologue for the "Twilight Zone":“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone."

You see, we of Planet Earth are being treated to an interlude/hiatus from the unfolding drama and tragedy that has been unwinding thus far throughout 2008. We all need a break from the bad news and the negatives which have been dragging us down financially, economically, monetarily, and militarily. The four-year tradition of the Olympic “peace” and sportsmanlike competition now being broadcast from Beijing has given us a rare and much-needed respite. The Chinese have pulled out all the stops in hosting these games. The XXIX Olympiad is shaping up to be the biggest dollar-driven diversion in the history of all mankind. China is treating the Olympics as a debutante coming-out party as the world’s future economic driving force—as if they didn’t already hold that position!

Don’t get me wrong, as I am thoroughly enjoying the daily NBC broadcasts. The Beijing Olympics of 2008 have now set the standards bar for the most spectacular of spectaculars. The four-hour-long opening ceremony literally was breathtaking. I watched with much hope and anticipation as the smiling young athletes entered “the bird’s nest,” eagerly looking forward to the experience and memories of a lifetime. Despite the raging conflicts and massive economic dislocations facing the planet, the peace and optimism of the Olympic spirit is alive and well in Beijing for the coming days.

Yes, Planet Earth was taking an intermission from its travails. This couldn’t have come at a better time.

Leading up to the Friday opening ceremonies, the stories on page one were not great news, but they were not terrible either. Crude oil continued to drop in price—down almost 20% from its record highs. The pump prices for fuel have fallen below $4.00 a gallon. The US dollar continued to rise in "value” relative to the basket of the world’s other currencies. There were no failed bank intervention/takeovers by the FDIC last week. The spot and future prices for gold, silver, and copper dropped from their highs. The stock markets’ indices rose—not because of any substantive good news, but rather that the published economic/financial data was not as negative as expected. In Northern Illinois, where I live, the sun shone over the weekend and we haven’t had a major wind- or rainstorm for a week now.

It seems like we’ve been down in the dumps for half of forever. The underlying problems and negatives have not gone away, and the problems have not been fixed, but yes—this hiatus is welcome.

The systemic messes we face in the US are far from over. More housing bubble-related losses and foreclosures loom on the horizon. Our nation’s energy, trade, and budget deficits will continue to grow. We are learning that more and more states and munipalities also are facing record cash flow problems and budget deficits. The full extent of these hinges on the coming payments from this fiscal year’s income and real estate tax proceeds. Time will tell how bad these will become.

I’ve felt all along that August would bring an intermission anomaly to the travails unfolding in 2008. I fully expected this, mostly because this is a presidential election year and the DC powerbrokers can be expected to do everything in their power to keep the lid on our messes until after November. Presumptive Democratic candidate Obama is vacationing in Hawaii. Presumptive Republican candidate McCain has only been mumbling in the wings. “Famous for being famous” Paris Hilton has surfaced as the 3rd Party (emphasis on PARTY) non-candidate “diversion” for the presidency. The running mates are only as yet speculations before the coming conventions. Nobody is zeroing in our real problems; neither are they detailing their game plans for any turnarounds. We’ve just crossed over into..."The Twilight Zone.” Enjoy it... because I fear it is but a temporary aberration.

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2008 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.

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This story was published on August 12, 2008.