Cutting Through The Crap

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bailout





One of the few times I cried with my wife (except at some movies, of course: I'm a sensitive guy) was the day I flew off to Vietnam. It was the helplessness of being made to do something really huge, really unwanted, potentially fatal to me, or our marriage, or my career. That's what it was. The helplessness. (In the end, ironically, I was glad I went.)

I haven't shed tears (yet) but this bailout thing feels a little bit the same. Despite being pretty conservative (financially) I've lost a significant amount of my savings, on which I'm now entirely dependent. The cost of the bailout (or of a non-bailout) is not yet measurable, but it seems certain that it'll impact us all, in very bad ways. I don't much doubt it'd be worse if nothing were done. Still: this is all a result of failings and screwups and politics and ideas, philosophies and greed, of which I was not a part. Other people have done this to me, and to all of us. And what's really galling is that it's the very people whose corruption and stupidity got us to this point, who are the recipients of our largess. They screwed up; they're getting bailed out; it's screwing us all; yet there may be no choice but to do it. That's helplessness, and way beyond frustration. (And just to show I'm more open-minded than some might think, I just about choked when I heard Nancy Pelosi say "We sent a message to Wall Street - the party is over.") (Scene in my head: Parents come home early, find their kids and about fifty others partying, drinking, shooting up, screwing on the couches. "Okay kids, party's over," they say, handing out booze, money, drugs, and condoms. For sure, condoms...)

I saw Joe Stiglitz (I knew him a little in college, where we were together) on TV Sunday, saying the only place champagne corks were popping over this thing was on Wall Street. A sucker was found, willing to buy up all their "toxic" debt. The sucker, he said, is us. No bubbly here. But there, there is. (Joe also said action was necessary.)

When John McCain "suspended" his campaign, he first met with Congressional Republicans who were balking. Unable to admit their complicity in the very philosophy that led to the mess, they couldn't accept the deal. To do so would be actually to accept responsibility. Reports suggest McCain, who had no proposal of his own, only served to stir it up further. It's clear he didn't solve anything because, well, it didn't happen.

For his entire career, John McCain has been a self-described deregulator. Proud of it. Mentioning it whenever he could (whenever he wasn't mentioning, y'know, the thing he doesn't like to mention). His advisers are entirely of that cloth, writers of the un-rules in fact. How can people accept him as a possible savior of the situation with this record? Only days earlier, he'd said "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." (And then, straight-talker that he is, he claimed he'd meant the workers of this country are strong. Gimme a friggin' break! If that's what he meant, why didn't he say it? Especially when he'd, Nero-like, phiddled the phrase umpteen times before. Even George Bush hadn't said it THAT recently. Straight talkin' country-firster, indeed.)

The whole thing sucks. I admire those on both sides who voted for the bill, because it's clear the vast majority of the electorate is against it. I don't know who's right. But I know that taking such a vote can only be based on the conclusion that the result of inaction is worse; and a willingness to lay their careers on the line. And THAT, my friends, is country first.

So here we are, where we are. I'm mostly convinced the bailout is necessary (it'd be easier if the people who testify to the direness weren't the same ones lying about how everything was fine a few months ago, and if it weren't so reminiscent.) But what's curiously missing -- and it's nearly as frustrating as the plan itself -- is the slightest admission on the part of the conservatives who led the fight against regulations that they have anything for which to apologize, that the philosophy they've been touting all these years has come a cropper.

No tears.

Makes me want to scream.

[Addendum: here's a link to the complete text of an Obama speech this morning. As we've come to expect, it's thoughtful, comprehensive, and clear. I'd call it "presidential." The contrast is stark.]

Monday, September 29, 2008

You're Stupid




At least that's what John McCain is counting on.

Let's review.

People have been warning of impending economic meltdown, mainly in the form of drying up liquidity, for months. During the past weeks, others actually began to listen. Several days ago, the evidence was pretty clear.

John McCain said, for the umpteenth time, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." (I won't insult you with his attempt to clarify the next day.)

The Republican White House presents a plan, jaw-dropping in terms of the amount of money requested, and in its absolute rejection of oversight. While McCain was initially silent, Barack Obama spoke clearly, spelling out what needed to change in the proposal. All of those changes were incorporated into the revised bill.

John McCain suddenly sees the light, announces there's an impending economic meltdown, and puts his campaign into animated suspension, claiming, for the first time in his life, he's for regulating Wall Street. Races immediately to D.C. (after a sojourn with an heiress, couple of interviews, speaking in NYC, etc) having covered the one hour distance in a mere 22 hours. Before he arrives, agreement is announced. After he's fiddled around, the deal is broken.

He disappears, having, according to several reports, been virtually silent in the White House meeting he provoked.

Rather than return to D.C. after the debate to, y'know, LEAD his party, he says, in response to questions thereabout, that he can talk to the necessary people ON THE PHONE!!!.

Now the vote in the House has failed. (Reminder: it's a plan initiated by a Republican president, the passage of which, with appropriate modifications, was worked for by Democrats -- a majority of whom voted for it -- and was shot down by Republicans, a majority of whom did not.) One might also note that just before it failed, McCain was taking credit for its passage.

(Opinion: it's a horrendous thing to have to do, and, according to several reports, Congresspeople are getting a flood of angry calls from constituents. Voting for the bill is gutsy by any measure, and can only be seen as a decision [rightly or wrongly] that the needs of the country supersede politics or their own electoral futures.)

So here's the "you're stupid" part. John McStraighttalkingPOWcountryfirstObamadoesntgetitCain is out there now blaming the whole thing on Barack Obama. He had two meaningful options: stating clearly his position in favor (with or without additional suggestions), he could have gone to (or phoned) his peeps in D.C. and worked on getting them to buy in. (Of course, if he failed, his leadership would be seen for what it is, and it'd have required real balls to do. 'Nuff said.) Or he could have stated "My friends, I was a deregulator in prison, and I've been one my whole career. I believe in free markets. Let the chips fall where they may, let market forces rule. No deal." He did neither. Choosing the truly craven, he went "country last" and blamed everything on Obama, and, most laughably, he put down his cellphone and accused Obama of "phoning it in." PHONING IT IN. And, of course, claiming Obama was politicizing the crisis.

If we weren't stupid, we might be asking if the crisis of last week was so dire that he couldn't -- putting country first! -- keep campaigning (except that he did), why isn't he suspending again, now that things are demonstrably worse?

But John McCain has placed his bets that we are stupid. Or at least, that we're not paying attention. He lies about things the disproof of which are right in front of our faces! It bothers him not at all. But here's what's really scary. At the rally today, when he said all that ridiculous stuff, people cheered like they'd just been given their tickets to the rapture. "Cynical politics": from now on the phrase should be replaced by "John McCain."

He's counting on the electorate being stupid. Of that, there's no doubt. Only question remaining: is he right?

[Update: here's a good list of McCain's wild swings.]

If I Had A Ham.....


Barack Obama has said the current economic collapse is the "final verdict" on the Bush/McCain economic policies. Republicans are saying it's not the policies, it's the execution. Lowering taxes raises revenues, lowering taxes raises revenues, lowering taxes raises revenues. The only reason it's never worked is because spending was never under control. And the only reason deregulation hasn't worked is because people got greedy.

My mom used to say "If we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs."

I'll stipulate: taxing at 100% would stifle the economy. You stipulate: taxing at 0% would stifle the government. Clearly, there's a range, a taxonomic sweet spot. Reagan never found it, Bush and Bush never found it. Clinton seems to have. During his presidency, the economy soared, revenues leapt, the budget was balanced. Over the objections of the Newtonian congress, with only Democrats favoring, taxes were increased. It's been argued that it was only after certain tax cuts were forced, in 1997, by the Republican congress, that the economy really took off. Well, maybe. It's interesting, though, that as soon as things started falling apart under Bush, Republicans immediately started blaming it all on Clinton. So which is it? 1997 was the reason for everything wonderful, or the 1993 plan was so evil it caused problems even after it was Reaganized?

Here's the thing: let's assume it was the 1997 Republicans that saved the economy. Maybe that was, in fact, the sweet spot. What, then, about the increased tax cuts of George Bush? Might we not all agree that he missed the zone? That a return to the tax status of 1997 might, in fact, make sense? And isn't that, after all, what Obama and the Democrats have been proposing? Get back to the tax levels which were, in fact, a compromise between Clinton's 1993 plan and the Republican push-back; and which the Republicans are touting as the real reason for Clinton's success? Seems like an easy agreement. We already made it once.

If we cut taxes, we'll balance a budget, if we cut spending. 

If we had ham, we'd have ham and eggs, if we had eggs.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Invisible Man



At what point might people look at John McCain and say, okay, we admit it, we blew it, the guy has no business being president? I'm deadly serious. It's not like he's trying to hide it. What I'm talking about is the fact that he's entirely about shooting from the hip. And, of late, lying. After a while, it gets really disturbing. Calmness under fire, careful deliberation? Since when? Sarah Palin? Suspending his campaign? "We are all Georgians?" F-bombs, calling his wife a c*nt?

I have my theories, of course. As an Air Force flight surgeon -- a doctor to pilots -- I saw things when I was in Vietnam. Among them was a very clear pattern: fighter pilots are a breed apart. The same might be said -- IS said -- about surgeons. Drama, danger, boldness, self confidence: characteristics (along with occasional assholery) of both genera. Other than the fact that one group is trying to kill people and the other is trying to save them, there are common elements that lead to common patterns of self-selection. Fighter jocks differ from airlift drivers. Surgeons differ from internists. In the Officers' Club in Danang (it was, appropriately, called the DOOM Club, for Danang Officers' Open Mess), you could tell the fighter boys easily: louder, drinking more, grouped together, wearing their flight suits with fancy kerchiefs. (For the record, I have nothing but admiration for all military pilots: the ones I knew, and flew with in all sorts of planes, were smart, skilled, and dedicated beyond words. I'd trust 'em all with my life. And often did.)

John McCain, it seems, took it all deeply to heart. A party boy, a poor student, he showed a reckless abandon from the start. Had he not been the son and grandson of admirals his career might have ended before it started; but I'd guess it endeared him to his fellow fliers. The archetype of the archetype. Tough guy, fuck-you sort of a guy.

On my way to Vietnam, I, along with all others on flying status in the Air Force, stopped in the Philippines for jungle survival school. In the rain forest for a couple of nights, we were taught "escape and evasion" skills. There were lectures on what was known about POW camps, torture, and torture resistance. (I particularly recall a letter that had been sent home by a POW, slipping through censors the phrase "if he paints the house, Tell Old Richard To Use Real Enamel." (Capitals mine.) There were mock-ups of booby traps and torture devices. It was scary stuff.

It's a failure for a pilot to be shot down, to be captured, to break under the pain of torture. Fighter jocks see themselves as tough guys, invincible; they're cocky. Without really knowing what it's like, I assume it's the ultimate blow to one's view of oneself. (I remember thinking, during those lectures, that I'd not survive it. When flying in Vietnam, we were issued survival vests, which had, among other things, a file in a sleeve for sticking up one's ass, maps, a statement in several languages that our government would reward anyone who helped us, and a .38 pistol, along with a dozen bullets. The fighter jocks added a bandoleer with a couple hundred more rounds. How stupid, I thought: surviving a situation where you'd need two hundred rounds fired from a pistol? Right. I figured if I were in that predicament, I'd need only one.)

John McCain has been fairly honest about his captivity, admitting he cracked, made propaganda films, tried suicide. It's heart-rending. It's understandable, forgivable, even admirable. Is it heroic? Not, I'd say, to him; not in his heart of hearts. Which, I submit, is the problem. And he's spending the rest of his life dealing with it. Anger, vindictiveness, seeing the world in black/white, good/evil terms. Demonizing opponents, seeing those who disagree with him as enemies, as unworthy. In yesterday's debate, he reeked of derision.

This is me, unqualified psychologist, Vietnam vet, doctor to pilots. I admire John McCain for making it through those years; I'm glad it wasn't me. He deserves respect.

As a senator, he's one of a hundred, contained. Unpredictable, flighty, overly dramatic, he'd be a dangerous president. He makes me nervous: to use the medical term, he's one scary dude.

[Update: others weigh in.]

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mass Debaters


My most clear-headed assessment of the debate is that it was a draw. No major screwups by either man, no clear scores. Minds will not change. In the end, mostly the expected talking points, no new ground broken; the most specific questions were avoided by both.

In other words, generally a waste of time.

I do look forward to the VP debate, expecting hilarity and the dropping of jaws. I hope I won't be disappointed.

[Update: I could be wrong.]

Just The Facts


When I look out my window, I see Puget Sound. Looking up, I see a gray and spongy sky. To my left is an enormous maple tree, its leaves portending the arrival of fall; to my right, a grand (if a little wind-beaten) cedar. I believe with certainty mitigated only by metaphysics, that were you to drop by, you'd see the same things.

It is with exactly the same certainty that I recognize Sarah Palin as surpassingly unqualified to be a national leader. It is no less clear to me that John McCain's latest look-at-me-I'm-a-hero stunt was pure politics; theater of the absurd; designed to deflect and distract. So it's nearly beyond comprehension that some see those facts differently. (I'd allow a little more slack on the McCain maneuver, because the situation is so complex and fraught. Still, it seems there was near agreement that agreement was near; then he buzzed in and things fell apart. And the preceding link is from a very conservative guy.)

So I come back to science (funny thing: I started this blog to save myself from polluting my medical one, but it seems there really is overlap!): studies showing differences between the actual makeup of liberals and conservatives. Our brains are different. And we react differently to facts.

Fascinating this may be, but it bodes ill.

In the founding days of this country, it was all upside. Prodigious and profoundly intellectual arguments took place in shaping The Constitution, and workable compromises were found. But somehow, as great and nearly inexplicably brilliant as those people were, I see it as less difficult than what's being faced today. The founders were farmers, basically, starting with nothing. It was all ahead of them, and there'd be time for correction, fine-tuning, making it up as they went along; based on thoughtful consideration of what had preceded them, they had clay in their hands. Lives were at stake, all right, but not the very survival of the planet. Were they to fail, they'd not have humanity on their hands.

Not so, today.

First of all, our politicians are nearly universally idiots. They are, in fact, chosen precisely for that quality, most especially those in the House of Representatives. Districts have been so gerrymandered that only the most partisan of either party will be elected. To the extent that there are people of wisdom in the capitol, they are mostly in the Senate, where such partisan hackery is less built-in. But, of course, there are conservatives and liberals; which means there are evidently fundamentally different ways of looking at data. Nor is it limited to Washington.

People who seem able, implicitly at least, to accept the physics behind nuclear power, reject the same math when it comes to the age of the Earth. Some think it literally true that a guy lived inside a fish for several days. Others are willing -- happy -- to kill themselves just for the pleasure of knowing they've killed others with whose beliefs they disagree. Nasty people take to the airwaves, spewing hatred and bigotry, claiming as fact things easily -- and already -- disproved. Listeners tune in and vibrate with pleasure, endorphins flowing from their grateful brains. Discourse, of the sort seen in Philadelphia centuries ago, is replaced by stunts, self-interest, and deceit. While the future of this country and the world breathtakingly teeter -- the economy, deficits, pollution, war, nuclear holocaust, climate change -- our leaders stake out diametric positions, sure of their own rightness, unwilling to compromise. And we cheer them on. The filthier, the more off-topic, the more dismissive and hate-filled, the better. The fewer the facts, the happier it makes (some of) us.*

I don't deny that, were anyone listening, I'd be fanning the fire much of the time. And the reason is simple: I look at what's going on and see fact as surely as I see out my window. John McCain is a self-aggrandizing and dangerously impulsive drama queen who needs (my explanatory theory may be upcoming) to be the center of attention and who is incapable of deep thought. His choice of Sarah Palin and his sudden crisis-mode (and quickly reversed) "campaign suspension" that never happened and vacuous meddling in D.C. are merely the most recent data points from which the conclusion is to be drawn. I can understand disagreements on the role of government, on entitlements, the war(s); I have misgivings about taxes and spending on both sides. But on McCain, and Palin, I simply can't fathom disagreement. It's just the facts, for all to see.

*Amazing. As if to underline the central thesis of this post, McCain already has ads up announcing he won the debate, before the debate has occurred! Laugh, cry? Tell me: I'll do it.

Sarahndipity



When I first went into practice, my partner asked me if I wanted to do vascular surgery. I'd done some in training, I told him -- fixed a carotid artery or two, repaired a couple of aortic aneurysms -- but I really didn't feel I'd had enough experience to do it in practice. "I'll help you do the cases until you're comfortable," he offered (and lest anyone think otherwise, he was an excellent surgeon and a really good guy.) Not wanting to pass myself off as something I was not, I demurred. The thought of trying to convince people to let me paw around in the inflow to their brains, knowing I'd be relying on someone else to make it happen, sat unwell.

At some level, watching the videos of Sarah Palin's interviews with Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson (Sean Hannity, as expected, never asked her anything harder than what it's like to be a mom), I found myself nearly feeling sorry for her. She's clearly in way over her head. It's possible she's smart; undoubtedly she has certain political skills, at least the ones necessary to succeed in small towns and in corrupt states. It might well be that, given time, she could become a decent Senator (if she can separate herself from her crazy religious beliefs.) But it's clear to everyone but the most damn-it-all-I don't-need-no-facts partisans she's absolutely not ready for the national stage. Looking furtively at her notes, mixing up her talking points, blithering.

But here's the thing: when McCain asked, she said yes. Surely she didn't think she was ready. (If she did, that's game, set, match: she's too clueless to be there.) She could have said no. Like I did, back then.

It's shameful. The shame is hers to share, but more than anyone, it's McCain's. Selecting her, whether it represents supreme carelessness or scary impulsiveness or craven cynicism, is an absolute disqualification from being president. It's reckless, and disrespectful. It's deeply worrisome; it disgraces both of them. I wonder if we'll ever get the truth: does he regret it now, or is he 100% cynicism. As the revelations rain upon them, are there second thoughts? Are his handlers angry as hell at him, or was it their idea? What are they saying, in private?

And, mostly, how can ANYONE, man or woman, look at her performance and remain enthusiastic?

[Update 1: Here's a more authoritative, and much lengthier statement, by a more famous person than I, which, it turns out, says much the same. Other than the surgery stuff.]

[Update 2: Well, by golly, lookee here.]

Thursday, September 25, 2008

She's Ready

(Sorry for the commercial. But it's worth waiting for.)


Watch CBS Videos Online

Great Minds

I stopped watching CNN a long time ago, because I came to develop wheezing and flatulence whenever I saw Wolf Blitzer. Plus, I think they've become the sine qua non of phony "balance:" ie, if someone says the sun rises in the west you put on someone who "disagrees" and leave it at that.

So I hadn't been aware that Campbell Brown has become a ranter, like me. But what really got my attention was the title of her talks. I'd not seen it before I titled this blog. You'll have to trust me on that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Smoke Jumper


Once again (the first time being his pick of Sarah Palin), John McCain comes up with politics in place of policy. Two days before the first presidential debate, a few more days after declaring the "fundamentals of the economy are strong," he announces the "suspension" of his campaign in order to return to Washington to solve the economic crisis. He calls upon Barack Obama to do the same. And, incidentally, to postpone said debate.

To many, no doubt, it appears ├╝ber-Presidential: let's come together for the good of the country. Pretty much sticks it to Obama no matter what his response. As usual, however, with McCain there's less there than meets the eye.

First of all, it turns out the initial overture was from Obama: moreover, as would be most appropriate, the contact was private which, I infer, was an attempt to avoid politicizing the situation. Do something positive. Let's get together a joint statement, he suggested. "Oh, yeah?" said McCain. "You wanna get all reasonable on me?.... Watch THIS."

And here's the thing: at this stage, neither Obama nor McCain have a role as Senators, in Washington, because it's in committee; that's the way it works. For them to show up, cameras a-flashin,' will do nothing but distract from the established process. But since when would that matter to McCain? To let the process work without trying to grab the headlines, well, that would be, like, I don't know, putting country first.

There's precedent. In a previous campaign, when McCain "parachuted" into DC in a similar way, he got into a bit of a dust-up with a fellow Republican, leading to one of his famous McPOW f-bombs.

So once again, we can choose our future: Obama made a behind-the-scenes attempt at agreement with McCain so they'd appear together to address the situation calmly and helpfully. McCain turned it into political theater. Reactions are predictable. It won't help get to a solution. Will it help get him votes (which, most certainly, is the real reason for the maneuver)? We'll see. It's only the second most cynical thing he's done in the past few weeks. We know from the first that people are easily distracted by shiny objects.

If McCain wins, we are so screwed....

[Update: a little more info, reinforcing my view.]

[Another update: smart guys weigh in.]

[Still another: Obama's press conference on the subject.]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Love America, Hate Its People


Since the Karl Rove era, we've seen a pretty clear pattern: Democrats like to register voters,* Republicans like to freeze them out. For the party of "country first," the ones that like to call liberals "America haters," it's sort of a dipstick into the crankcase, coming up scorched and gritty.

Here's but one of many examples. The ubiquity suggests it's not just an Abu rogue or two: in Ohio, 2004, there's reason to believe it was rampant, and successful. This tells us a lot, not the least of which is that the party which claims to love America more than Democrats, seems to hate democracy even more. Stopping people from thinking takes at least a generation. In the meantime, until we get the minds all washed up and ready for bending (sort of a slower version of what's happening to Sarah Palin behind closed doors, away from the press), it's best to keep them from voting. If the bankruptcy (literally, nowadays) of Republican ideas isn't clear by now to everyone (and it obviously isn't, according to polls), doesn't this difference really say it all?

*I'd not go so far as to claim Democrats are of pure hands. They tried, in Florida in 2000, to eliminate military overseas ballots that were not dated properly. That was stupid. But it was legal; and it wasn't carried out. In the past, of course, they were more famous for adding votes, than subtracting them. Nevertheless, I think it's fair to say the numbers are in no way close to those potentially (and actually) disenfranchised by the party of God and Country.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hot Marbles

I was a surgeon, once. When things got really serious in the operating room, facing a difficult dissection through dangerous territory for example, I got pretty quiet. Generally, I liked talking, joking, teasing in the OR. Music was good, too. But when in that (thankfully) rare situation of impending disaster, it was about focus and silence, except for words necessary to the task at hand. Music was turned off, extraneous conversation ceased at my request.

I've seen some surgeons get all panicky and throw instruments, yell and fire off blame like cannons, indiscriminate and wild. It doesn't help. In fact, it worries the hell out of the entire crew, gets them off their game.

In that context, it's interesting to compare the reactions of John McCain and Barack Obama as the banking industry crumbled before our eyes. It's predictive, I predict, of what their respective presidencies would look like. Couldn't be more different.

First thing out of McPOW's reddening face was the threat to fire Christopher Cox, the head of the SEC. (A couple of times he referred to it as the FEC, the federal elections commmission. Far be it from me to go all Freudian.) Funny, really. For one thing, the president can't fire the head of the SEC. For another, criticizing the man for failing to regulate after passing all the deregulatory legislation is like yelling at your plumber for poor work, after hiding his tools.

Next, while his campaign was accusing Obama of politicizing the crisis, McCain got up and said: "We're heard a lot of words from Sen. Obama over the course of this campaign, but maybe, just this once, he could spare us the lectures and admit to his own poor judgment in contributing to these problems," McCain said. "The crisis on Wall Street started in the Washington culture of lobbying and influence peddling, and he was right square in the middle of it." Politicizing much?

Well, you gotta admire his balls (okay, that's a really scary thought.) In Congress for decades, leading the fight against deregulation, hiring bank lobbyists and those of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae by the bagfull, tainted by the Savings and Loan debacle, Mad Mac manages to suggest that it's Obama (whom he previously criticized for not being in Washington enough) who's at fault. This, from the man whose campaign manager is as deep in it as it gets. That's straight talk only in Wonderland.

So let's recap: John McCain's response to the Wall Street crisis was first to pop off and want to fire someone. Someone whom he can't actually fire, and who had not much to do with the failures; and then to attack Barack Obama in a most pot-calls-pottery-black (no offense) sort of way. Fire, ready, aim. Oh, and he abruptly changed his life-long mantra of deregulation and pretended he'd always been the opposite. Spinning. And spinning.

By contrast, Barack Obama got together with a collection of economic heavyweights, from across the spectrum: a former Fed chair, two or three Treasury secretaries, couple of other guys. He made no from-the-hip pronouncements. He laid out a list of priorities.

I look at it as a window. Before the recent privacy rules, OR doors used to have windows, too. In one, I see a guy screaming at the nurses, stamping his feet, and tossing clamps on the floor. Overheated, losing his marbles. In another, there's a surgeon calling for calm, collecting his thoughts, and concentrating on the job at hand. Who you gonna open your belly to; in whose hands trust your life?

[Update: even that lefty George Will agrees.]

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Taxing Credulity


Joe Biden has said that willingness to pay one's share of taxes is patriotic. Naturally, those paragons of patriotism, those arguers for putting country first, Sarah Palin and John (I-was-a-POW-and-you-weren't) McCain, put it down like a steaming turd, and their audience laughed and roared their approval.

So let's see if I understand.

We are in a war for dubious reasons and with questionable results, mismanaged from the start, for the price-tag of, conservatively, a trillion dollars. After Republicans put into place the diabolical duo of tax cuts and deregulation, resulting in what is generally agreed to be the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression (worse, some say), another trillion dollars of our tax money (give or take a few billion) will be required to clean up the mess. Our national debt has ballooned in the last eight years by about six trillion dollars, before accounting for the aforementioned debacles. Infrastructure is crumbling. The military is depleted and degraded. We need to find and fund a way to disseminate alternatives to fossil fuels. Terrorism, despite our so-called war on it, is increasing around the world. It's no exaggeration to say the survival of our country as we know it is not at all certain.

Willingness to help pay for this, our would-be leaders to the right have told us, is laughable.

It's not hard to understand, I suppose. It's their policies, their most tightly-held beliefs, that have gotten us here. Aided, of course, by the constant declarations that everything is fine, not to worry, no need to pay our way, it's all good. Look the other way while we pick your pockets, scoop up your kids. Nothing to see here, move along, move along. So to admit now that they've screwed us to the point of possible non-viability, is to admit they've been wrong. Seriously wrong. Since Ronald Reagan (may peace be upon him.)

What, I wonder, is on the minds of those laughing and waving lipsticks while Sarah McSame sneer at Biden's suggestion? How would they define patriotism, given the crises we face everywhere we look, and absent the money to address them? Another yellow ribbon on the SUV? Another smear of Obama, another suggestion that he hates America? Would those lovers of family values (and haters of families other than their own) similarly laugh if they'd run their household into staggering debt and were told they need to tighten their belts? Wave lipsticks and run the truth-teller off their lawn?

You can put lipstick on George Bush, but it's still Sarah Palin.

Even one of John McCain's own economic advisors has said the next president will have to raise taxes, and that was BEFORE the bailout of Wall Street. Yet John McPalin laugh it off. The choice, they've said, is between "Country first, or Obama first."

Joe Biden spoke the truth. There's no way to get around raising taxes to pay for the mistakes of George Bush and those, like John McPOW, who've enabled them. Anyone who loves the country enough actually sacrifice for it (and that includes me) would admit it (and, most likely, that any hopes of spending on the other things we need are now out the window). But not John and Sarah. They laugh it off. And their audience, their conserative country-first confabulators, slap each other on the back and the band plays on.