Final Word from Friday, August 12, 2011

Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, Franco (the rumba giant of Zaire)and a few other artists were so transformational that, accordingto one theory, their work can't be rated on the same scaleas that of mere mortals. Their entire output is of AAA quality,so an internal scale has to be used to measure the differencebetween, say, "Sgt. Pepper" and "Let it Be." Both are gifts fromthe gods, but the gods were having an especially good daywhen they created "Sgt. Pepper." The U.S. used to be the LouisArmstrong of sovereign debt, with its AAA rating and its aweinspiringreserve currency. It's now been downgraded to mereFrank Sinatra status, AA+, but it's clear that with the worldteetering on the edge, the debt-rating scales have been inflated.The world wasn't listening when John sang that the dream isover. The all-but-bankrupt U.S. is actually more like a BarryManilow. Officially, the Czech Republic's A rating puts in theleague of a minor goddess like Tina Turner. Adjusted for creditratinginflation, it's more like a one-hit Kim Wilde.

Glossary of difficult words

Franco - Francois Luambo Makiadi, considered by many to be Africa's greatest musician;

rumba - a rhythmic dance music with Spanish and African elements;

sovereign debt - debt issued by a national government;

awe-inspiring - arousing awe or respect by being impressive, formidable or magnificent;

to teeter - to move or balance unsteadily;

one-hit - having had only one bestselling song.


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