Boy, this blog has been breaking new records for traffic this week! About a fourth of the visitors are here to see the e-mail I posted about the persecution of Christians in Orissa, India. To all my readers, thanks for your support.
And what a drop the stock market has taken! At least a thousand points on the Dow Jones Average, if my calculations are correct. Earlier this year we saw Bear Stearns, one of the biggest investment firms on Wall Street, bought out, and the government had to bail out two real estate giants, Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now since Monday, three more giants have fallen: Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, Merrill Lynch was bought (I guess they won’t be bullish on America anymore), and just when I thought there was no money left for bailouts, the government loaned $85 billion to save the AIG insurance company, in return for 80 percent ownership and an annual interest rate of 11 percent. And that may not be all; today I heard about Washington Mutual, the former holder of our mortgage in Florida, going up for sale, and a possible merger between Morgan Stanley and Wachovia.
When I drove to work yesterday morning, the radio announcer said, “If you are a taxpayer, you now own part of America’s largest insurance company.” Let’s see, $85 billion divided by 300 million Americans equals $283.67 for every man, woman and child in this country. For Leive and I, that totals $567.34, less than the tax breaks president Bush gave us in 2001 & 2003, and much less than last spring’s “economic stimulus.” I think I’m going to demand proof in the form of a stock certificate!
I also noted that except for a few political ads, the Republicans and Democrats are working together to try to stop the Wall Street hemoraging as quickly as possible. Therefore I think both parties are to blame for the current mess. After all, greed has universal appeal, to politicians on the left as well as on the right. However, we should keep in mind that this is far from being the only time a popular investment went bad. The Dutch went crazy over tulips in the 1630s, and in the 1920s, it happened with stocks in general. These days, it seems that every decade people pour money into some investment, thinking they can’t lose, only to see it crash because of over confidence. In the 1980s, it was the savings & loan industry; in the 90s, it was high-tech companies; now it looks like it’s real estate’s turn to take a hit.
Fortunately not all the economic news is bad; even these clouds have a silver lining. First, the price of crude oil dropped like a rock, too, because we aren’t buying much while our Texas refineries are offline, so expect to see a strong “correction” in gas prices shortly. Second, the Russian stock market has fallen even more than ours, losing 17 percent of its value in the past month and a half, because foreign investors pulled out their money after the invasion of Georgia. I hope that teaches Vladimir Putin that he can’t meddle in the affairs of his neighbors, and expect to escape the consequences. And since recent prosperity in Russia is largely dependent on the high cost of energy, failing crude oil prices are likely to hurt him more than rising prices hurt us.
The last time I checked, tens of thousands of people north of here were still without power, though I believe some repair work is now underway. One of the biggest challenges was preparing the Valhalla golf course for the Ryder Cup; among other things, a TV tower fell on one of the greens. Last Tuesday I heard that a Kroger grocery store in Louisville gave away all its meat, because they couldn’t keep it frozen without electricity, and because those who claimed the viands cooked them right away on their grills, the whole neighborhood smelled like a big barbecue! That’s Kentucky for you; I suspect that if we have a state dish, the way Philadelphia has cheese steaks and California has sourdough bread, it’s probably barbecued ribs.
Some of you may remember in July of 2007, I posted a picture of a horse farm with a castle on it. Well, today it was announced that renovation work on the castle is almost finished, and it will become the most expensive bed & breakfast in town; suites will start at $1,000 a night. If the Queen of England or the Sheik of Dubai choose to visit Lexington again, I suppose this will be the most appropriate place where they can stay.
And finally, great news from the airport. Last month I told you that Delta, the only airline that flies non-stop between Orlando and Lexington, was going to stop those flights to cut costs. Now starting on November 6, Allegiant Air, an airline I had never heard of before, is going to fly two flights between Orlando and Lexington every week, and two between Lexington and Tampa Bay. What’s more, they will be 155-passenger planes, not the little 48-passenger jets we see at Bluegrass Airport most of the time. I did a little research, and Allegiant Air seems to be based in Las Vegas, and most of its flights go to smaller cities in the West; Orlando, Tampa and Lexington are the only places they visit in the eastern time zone. Also, they don’t use the main airports much. The Orlando flights will actually land in Sanford, in case the passengers want to go to Daytona Beach, and the Tampa Bay flights land in St. Petersburg, rather than Tampa itself. Still, I wouldn’t mind; the road traffic to Orlando/Sanford has to be easier than the traffic around OIA. Best of all, they are offering an introductory price of $69 for a one-way ticket if you order before October 8, and $89 after that. What a deal; the next time I go to Florida, I might just fly instead of drive, if it’s only going to cost as much as two or three gas tanks!