The worldwide financial crisis is now officially underway. Make sure you do your holiday shopping early - while you still have money. Yes, Wall Street is broken, Main Street is broke, and Easy Street is getting harder all the time. But if you think you got it bad, check out these recent REAL stories that are happening all around the globe. Then you can file this column in the "things are tough all over" department.
So how bad is the global financial crisis? Reuters reports that it's so bad that Russians are cutting back on vodka. Stockpiles of Russia's national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories are producing vodka faster than they can sell it. And Russians are trying to save their money, including booze money, because of the financial crunch on people's disposable incomes.
Research conducted by the National Alcohol Association showed deaths from alcohol poisonings in September increased to 1,458 -- the result, it said, of some Russians turning to dangerous vodka substitutes as they try to find a cheaper way of getting bombed. Better hide the shaving lotion and rubbing alcohol, comrade. Better hide the varnish, tovarish …at least until the economy turns around.
It's said that Russians consume the equivalent of 15 liters of pure alcohol per head each year. Man that's a lot of Stoli. "The government has to do something for these people trying to afford the most basic essentials in life," a Russian spokesman said. WHAT? "The most basics essentials in life?" Are they kidding?
Well, it's time to run out to the market and pick up a few basic staples for the week - let's see, we'll need bread, milk, a couple of bottles of vodka… Seems hard to understand until you realize that the name "vodka" is the Russian diminutive of the word for "water." Maybe that's the problem right there - the Russians have been thinking they were drinking water all this time!
But if you think the Russians have it tough, listen to this. Germany is running out of qualified Santa Clauses and needs to recruit and train them fast, a leading job agency says. This year there is an acute shortage of Santas to entertain children at shopping centers, Christmas markets and private parties. Germans are trying to shut out the financial crisis by taking comfort in traditional festivities, and now there are not enough Santas to go around. Ach der lieber!
A job recruiting spokesman in Munich said that it isn't easy to find qualified Santas. The qualifications are pretty stringent. Among other things a person needs to be child-friendly, organized, reliable, and have a clean police record. I guess those things are rare commodities in Germany these days. Maybe they should think about outsourcing. If they do, they might try the North Pole for starters.
Did you hear what happened to the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama? Well, he was arrested by the FBI on a wide variety of federal charges including conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering, and filing false income tax returns. "Hiz Honor's" name is Larry Langford, and he's named in a 101 count indictment that alleges criminal activity while he was a county commissioner. Merry Christmas, Your Honor! With any luck at all you'll be eating your plum pudding in an orange jump suit.
And now we come to the saddest story of the week. Rosie O'Donnell's new NBC variety show, "Rosie Live" had a total viewer ship of only 5 million for its premier broadcast. The show, needless to say, has been dropped from the network's schedule. The program learned a 1.2 preliminary rating among adults 18-49. I believe the only show in the history of broadcasting to have a lower rating was "Bowling for Walnuts with Dennis James" sometime around 1962.
Just what is our country coming to when a sweet, demure soft-spoken all American girl like Rosie O'Donnell can't get a hit show? It makes me want to cry. I think I will. Oh, boo hoo. Boo, hoo. Boo, hoo, HA,HA, HA! Oops, sorry. The HA,HA,HA part slipped out by mistake.
So there you are. And you thought YOU had it bad, eh? Be thankful you don't live in Russia or Germany, or Alabama, or with Rosie O'Donnell. Like I told you, things are tough all over - especially for Russians, Germans, crooked politicians and nasty little blowhards.