The evidence is in the mostly incomprehensible news stories crowding out what has been an entertaining run of occasionally goofy, but easy-to-follow dispatches on all things Sarah Palin.
Now it's all Index of Subprime Mortgage Derivatives Plunges on Sector Woes!
Wasn't it only yesterday when our biggest problem was trying to decide whether Cindy McCain or Sarah Palin had the better hair?
This week's newspaper reading is a slog, even with all the little charts and boxes.
For those of us who procrastinated, telling ourselves day after day that tomorrow, surely, we would take the time to learn what was meant by credit default swap derivatives and how subprime mortgage-backed securities really work, and who are Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae again? - for us, this week's newspapers are as inscrutable as the pile of documents we pretended to understand when executing our own mortgages.
But we can't put it off any longer. So this morning I buckle down with strong coffee and the financial news, determined to make sense of whether I should care if insurance giant A.I.G. can secure bridge financing or that the bank where I have almost enough money to make my mortgage payment is trading for $2 a share.
I take notes so I can bother the business editor later with my questions: Is the smart money under the mattress or in the dresser? And what has any of this got to do with Sarah Palin anyway?
I am five paragraphs into Joe Nocera's attempt to make sense of what he calls the "mind-numbing complexity of the derivatives ... at the heart of the current crisis," when the 10-year-old begins her song.
"Do you love my little baby ghosties? Yeah, yeah, little baby ghosties..." Other verses follow as I make my way through an analysis of Lehman Brothers' mark-to-market pricing.
She has thrown herself into the Halloween spirit early this year, producing an assembly-line's worth of little paper ghosts with googly eyes and gaping 0-shaped mouths.
"Stop," I say. "I am trying to read a story of mind-numbing complexity. The "Little Ghostie" song is making it hard for me to concentrate on whether it was a good idea to sell Merrill Lynch to Bank of America."
She looks at my notebook. "Write about my ghosties," she says.
"I am writing about the crisis on Wall Street," I say. "It's a little early to write about Halloween."
She deftly revises the pitch.
"My ghosties are ruined financially," she says. "They had their money in Templeton Franklin and the money isn't there anymore."
I can't argue with that.
Photo: Ghosts actually put very little of their own money at risk.