Saturday, February 7, 2009

News You May Have Missed

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson today announced the issuance of a new denomination of United States currency, the “gazillion”. The Secretary commented, “With so much money changing hands at an ever-increasing rate, it was thought prudent to streamline the process a bit by offering a new denomination, so that the government and banks wouldn't have to go through the burdensome process of hauling stacks of million- and billion-dollar notes around in wheelbarrows. The gazillion-dollar note will have the added advantage of flexibility. Since “gazillion” is not a number that is officially recognized by the IBRBN (International Bureau of Really Big Numbers), we can, basically, make it stand for any amount that is needed at the moment. Mainly, we can assure that it will always be larger than the largest standard denomination currently in use. So, for example, now that we're dealing in trillions, the gazillion will be benchmarked at 10 trillion. But once we move up to tens of trillions, the gazillion will be revalued, by executive order, to 100 trillion, and so on. So we always stay ahead of even the largest transactions that are going on at the time, whether of the bailout type, the economic stimulus type, or just plain inflation, like the one in Zimbabwe.” It should be noted that Zimbabwe has recently run out of numbers with which to accommodate its high inflation rate, causing even greater distress among the populace, not to mention embarrassment for the government and massive layoffs among printers working for the Zimbabwe mint. Secretary Paulson notes that this cannot happen here once the gazillion-dollar note is in general circulation, even though its use will be, for the moment, confined to bailouts, economic stimulus plans, and bonuses for bank and Wall Street executives. “But we see other potential uses on the horizon, like new contracts for Halliburton, reparations for slavery, the Mars program, pothole repair, and so forth.”

Women's organizations have mounted a protest against what they call “the concrete ceiling”, in response to a recent finding that the percentage of female college students is not only greater than that of male students, but is rapidly increasing. One spokesperson said, “We see, once again, the effects of a male-dominated economy, in that men are more likely to be accepted into, and enjoy rapid advancement in, cushy blue-collar jobs like construction, maintenance, sanitation, and so forth, which forces women into colleges, where the most they can hope for is white collar or professional careers.” The usual objection to this viewpoint is that the situation is simply the result of the free choices of the people involved. But Gerta Hunchar, a NOW official, disputes this, saying “The choice is anything but free. It's not only coerced by the male-dominated system, but reinforced by stereotypes in the media. The notion that women 'don't belong' in occupations like coal mining or heavy equipment operation permeates our culture, and those few who choose this route are considered freaks. Whereas no one has any problem at all with the current college attendance rate for women being well over 50%, and going up every day. People who are startled by the sight of a women boilermaker, for example, don't even bat an eyelash at women doctors, lawyers, or judges.” She also commented that this stereotyping starts not just in high school, but in the grades and even pre-school, where girls are confined to playing with pencils, drawing letters and numbers, and using the Internet, whereas boys are more likely to be encouraged to play with toy trucks and participate in rough games, preferably outdoors. There seems to be general agreement that a remedy for this situation has to be very high on President Obama's list of priorities: “Certainly in the top five, if not at the very top”, according to Ms. Hunchar.

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