Dead cat bounce

Making the most out of the ongoing economic catastrophe

If you’re looking for a good illustrator, visit Robert Armstrong at

So much for the $700 billion bailout. Last Friday, even as the House was cravenly reversing its principled stand against providing yet another taxpayer-funded giveaway to Wall Street, the Dow Jones index plunged nearly 500 points. By Monday, the Asian and European markets were cratering and the Dow was down another 400 points or so, dipping below the 10,000 point level for the first time since December 2003. If members of Congress weren’t aware of it before the bailout vote, they’re certainly aware of it now: The game is over.

No one—with the possible exception of the high-flying financiers on the receiving end of the bailout—will remain unscathed in this unfolding catastrophe, including SN&R. We feel your pain, because we’re hurting, too. We’re all hurting.

The one silver lining in all of this concerns the American people’s reaction to the most recent bailout proposal. As I wrote last week, literally hundreds of thousands of individuals from across all political persuasions took time off from their busy schedules to voice objection to the bailout with their elected representatives. The bailout’s eventual passage need not be seen as a defeat. Instead, think of it as a wake-up call.

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Nine months ago when I started this column, folks wondered if the name “Race to the Bottom” wasn’t just a little bit too … depressing. In my defense, I noted that the name was simply an accurate description of the events that are going on all around us. On any number of fronts—the economy, the environment, civil liberties—the race to the bottom is well underway.

The column’s two primary goals have always been and always will be to tell the truth about the challenges facing us and to celebrate the individuals among us who have the guts to stand up and voice dissent. On the first score, it’s been fairly easy sledding. Virtually no mainstream media outlet in America—let alone Sacramento—tells the truth about anything these days. That leaves a lot of territory open to yours truly.

On the second score, celebrating individuals who are fighting against the race to the bottom, this space has achieved a fair modicum of success, particularly in the areas of criminal and civil law.

I’ve chronicled self-styled at-risk youth advocate Rhonda Erwin’s tireless efforts to address youth violence in Sacramento. I’ve followed Gold River resident Ulf Carlsson’s quixotic crusade to remove controversial Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter J. “Chainsaw” McBrien from the bench.

These and many other readers of this column all have at least two things in common. One, they were willing to stand up publicly for a cause they strongly believe in. Two, they contacted me.

All I did was listen.

That’s what I do.

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All of this has been by way of explaining the changes you’re holding right now in your very hands. As you’ve no doubt noticed, the column is now on a different page. Thanks to the economy, it’s also minus the whimsical illustration of Robert Armstrong.

Truth be told, Bob wasn’t into it for the money—we don’t pay enough for that. Besides, he’s a first-class illustrator and musician with no want for work. What intrigued him was the chance to weigh in on the decaying world around us, and perhaps make a difference.

That’s all any of us can ask for, and Bob’s had more luck at it than most. As a young man, he and a friend coined the phrase “couch potato” and made a mint. Later, he became a close personal friend of alternative comic book legend Robert Crumb and created his own Mickey Rat comic-book series. Oh, and that’s Bob playing the musical saw on the intro to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

A multi-instrumentalist who plays the accordion, ukulele, steel guitar, standard guitar, banjo and the jug, Bob specializes in American music made between 1900 and 1940, “a swirling maelstrom of old-style music” ranging from Hawaiian slack-key guitar to old blues, jazz and country-western standards. Frankly, the guy plays music so much, it’s a wonder he ever has any time to draw.

Bob may be gone from this space, but he’s not forgotten. Anyone seeking a top-notch illustrator can contact him at And if you really want to make a difference, catch Bob with Sourdough Slim at the Palms Playhouse in Winters this Saturday, October 11, at 8 p.m. Don’t forget to tell him R.V. sent you.