This is the last column of mine that you will ever read in the Syracuse New Times. (Please hold your applause.) This is, we are sad to say, the last edition of the Syracuse New Times. It’s not our doing: Blame the Mayans. If you believe that the Hollywood version of the Mayan calendar is accurate, and that the world will come crashing to an end next Wednesday, just as the pre-Christmas issue of The New Times is on its way back from the printer, then it’s over, dear readers. It’s been fun, but as we say in Mayan, hasta la vista.
I am not much for tea leaves and astrologists, or anything else that can’t be examined in the light of the evidence, but there are some signs of the times that indicate that people in the know may really think this apocalypse is the real deal. For example, the other day on television I saw that John Boehner fellow speaking, in public, before people holding cameras, about possibly agreeing to raise taxes—but not until next year. A next year that, he fervently prayed as he reached for a Camel Light while exiting the podium, will never come.
How else can such erratic behavior be explained? Only if Boehner thinks the world will end and he will never have to face the recriminations of the Tea Party and Grover Norquist—he of the no-tax pledge—would he cave, ever so slightly, on a tax hike.
Apparently, the political class has known about this doomsday in the offing for quite some time. What else can explain the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration in waging two wars on a credit card while cutting taxes? How else can you fathom that a nation, five years from reading the Simpson-Bowles report on the federal deficit, continues to spend as if there is no tomorrow? Because they know there isn’t a tomorrow.
How else can you explain the decision by the Department of Justice to actually fine a bank for serial misconduct? Four years after risky bank practices drove the nation’s economy into a ditch and threatened a financial apocalypse, the government announced on Dec. 11, that it has fined HSBC Bank $1.9 billion for practices that include money laundering on behalf of the Sinaloa drug cartel and helping now-deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and the Iranian mullahs get access to the U.S. banking system in spite of American laws banning them from doing exactly that?
Gotta hand it to those guys: They were not playing for chump change. This was serious organized crime. Still, it makes you wonder: the U.S. government fining a bank? The bank agreeing to the fine?
You could say they did it as a way to avoid prosecution and possible jail time for bank executives (if you had a sense of humor that outstripped your sense of history) but I say it’s the apocalypse. The bankers professed that they were very sorry for being such bad boys, and promised to pay the fine (next year), and to behave better next time (after time, as a concept or a reality, has ceased to exist).
Even the New York Yankees are showing signs that they think The End is Near. In their offseason dealings and contract signings they have been uncharacteristically cautious with the purse strings. Rather than seriously build for the future, they’ve been signing a series of one-year contracts with aging superstars recruited from the roster of the AARP, including Ichiro Suzuki, Andy Pettitte and the previously despised Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Should the Apocalypse fail to materialize on schedule on Friday, Dec. 21, the Bombers may find themselves on Opening Day with a payroll second in size to that of the Los Angeles Dodgers. That is an event that in itself eclipses the end of the world.
While a year without baseball, or for that matter without anything at all, fills many observers with sadness, let me remind you of this: If the world ends, we will no longer have to watch the spectacle of our daily newspaper wasting away as if it had just been subjected to bariatric surgery. No trudging out to the end of the driveway trying to remember if this is a yes day, a no day, or a maybe day. Every day will be a no day.
If you need further proof that the end times are upon us, here’s one way to find out. Just ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo when New York state plans to make a decision about hydrofracking. What’s that, Governor? Oh, yeah—next year. We’ll see. Maybe.
Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary every week (but not next week) in The New Times. You can reach him before Dec. 22 at email@example.com.