where the writers are
Bad timing (it must be November)

In the past couple of months two, count 'em, two of our major appliances have conked out on us. And our water heater.

Now that's a pretty hefty outlay of money, I think you'll agree. We're your typical, middle class family, making ends meet, barely, and there usually isn't much room for catastrophic failures and unforeseen disasters. Our insurance covers a meteor strike from outer space but not, apparently, damage from a sewer backup in the basement. We are truly living in the end times.

And then, as I ponder our dire finances, the pitiful amount my writing brings in, my eyes are drawn to the figure of $2 billion. Two billion dollars. That's how much the two major political parties have raised to fight this year's presidential election.

It's a stupefying figure. Look at it: $2,000,000,000. Doesn't that seem obscene? Half the world starves and those crazy Yanks are shelling out all that dough for...what? What does two billion bucks buy you these days?

Access. A hall pass that allows you to roam the corridors of power, chatting up the folks who make the laws or sit on prominent committees. Want to see the President? X amount buys you that privilege and maybe a private meeting with the relevant cabinet minister afterward.

Democrats or Republicans: one set of power brokers or another. Unless you can afford their $100,000 a plate dinners, don't bother writing or calling. There are no secret handshakes or societies composed of hooded, middle-aged billionaires. The Trilateral Commission is a red herring. It's all about money, it's that plain and simple. Ideology and political vision, these are afterthoughts. Don't confuse issues or devise elaborate Danny Casolaro-like schemes and many-tentacled monsters.

"First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the pussy," Tony Montana drawls at one point during the 1983 version of "Scarface".  In his own crude way Tony (as imagined by screenwriter Oliver Stone) hits the nail squarely on the head. Is there a better definition of capitalism? Has anyone more accurately described the cruel parameters of its black, withered heart?