Cutting Through The Crap

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reaganite




This is Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan's Chief of Staff. He announced he's voting for Obama. Along with Bush's press secretary, his Secretary of State and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and these other well-known and/or influential Republicans...

Probably they all hate America, and pal around with terrorists.

Why I'm For Barack Obama

It's time to set aside my typical ranting and simply state why I just voted for Barack Obama. This will be about the issues as I see them, about the things I consider important and worthy of consideration, the substantive differences between him and John McCain.

Temperament. This is perhaps the most subjective issue, but in no way do I see it as inconsequential. In the last several months we've been able to see Barack Obama maintain a calm and thoughtful demeanor, in the face of smears and attacks, and in the face of the biggest economic crisis of our time. To me the contrast has been dramatic: John McCain fired off a tirade against Christopher Cox, behaved histrionically and ineffectively, and then claimed both sides of the issue of the bailout. Obama remains steady and coherent. McCain has changed everything about himself that was admirable eight years ago.

More important, as I've said many times, is Obama's appeal to our commonality, his statements that there are good ideas to be mined from all points along the political spectrum. It's what I believe, too. It's the opposite message coming from John McCain and most especially from Sarah Palin. It's divisive at exactly the wrong time in our history.

Has Obama engaged in negative campaigning? Yes, of course. But not nearly to the extent of the other side; and it's generally been fact-based and not personal. He constantly praises McCain the person, while disagreeing with his plans. McCain and Palin are attacking Obama personally, deceptively, and destructively.

I don't know where to place it on this list, and I have nothing very original to say: but the first "presidential" decision either candidate made was in choosing their vice-president. (The second was the bailout; see above.) Joe Biden drives me crazy: he can be brilliant, he can be screeechingly boring, and, worse, wildly off-message. But he's clearly a good guy, a smart guy, and a very knowledgeable guy. When McCain picked Palin, my first thought was that it was brilliant politics, lousy governance. I was half right. Once the facts came out, revealing how antithetical was her behavior as governor and mayor to the image being promoted, the brilliant politics part came loose. In choosing Sarah Palin, McCain showed his impulsive side, his cynical side. He thought about the politics of it in the most immediate sense, forgoing any real vetting or consideration of her readiness.

And I worry about McCain's temper and his tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. To me, it appears he prefers to see the world in a binary way: good vs evil, them vs us, with me or against me. In other words, in that regard he's exactly like George Bush.

The economy. I don't agree with everything Obama says on this: for example, I think he may be going too far in tax cuts. But McCain is way worse, and directing his cuts where they're not needed: Exxon Mobil just reported the highest ever profits in any quarter of any business in history.

But where I see the biggest and most important difference is this: Barack Obama wants to inject money into the economy where it's most valuable. Jobs. He wants to spend money on infrastructure projects -- schools, bridges, roads, ports, the electricity grid, alternative energy research. John McCain takes what I think is exactly the wrong approach during these perilous times: he wants to freeze government spending. You don't see much analysis on that subject, but when I think about it, it seems absolutely the wrong idea at the wrong time. Impulsive, simplistic, poorly thought-out. An applause line for his crowds, and not much more. As Senator Obama said in the interview linked in my previous post, we have run up enormous debt with nothing to show for it. If the government has any ability to affect the recession and banking crisis, its spending needs to be smart. Sadly -- because our children's children are already mortgaged beyond imagining -- we may have to make deficits worse for a while.

The war. Wars. Before we invaded Iraq, I was saying to everyone who'd listen what a mistake I thought it was. I saw it as much like Yugoslavia, where I spent some time many years ago, doing medical research. My Yugoslav counterpart predicted that when Tito died, the country would erupt into vicious factional fighting. And it did. I saw the same in Iraq; and I felt it would be doing exactly what al Queda wanted; and that it meant leaving Afghanistan undone. Barack Obama said the same things. John McCain got every single thing wrong, despite his touted expertise in security and foreign policy. He agitated in favor of the war, said it would be easy, quick, we'd be greeted as liberators, and would pay for itself. He'd like to have us judge him only on a tactic he advocated five years later, the success of which is not yet certain, and which in fact was, in the opinion of most experts, far less important in the decreased violence than was the "Sunni Awakening."

And whereas the Iraq war seems to offer only bad choices at this point, it's clear that Obama has been right all along in calling for timetables for withdrawal. It's the stated policy of the Iraqis now, and has been for some time. Moreover, they've made it clear that prolonged US presence exacerbates their problems, which is what Obama has been saying from the beginning. The Iraqis have also made a strong statement that they'll not allow US military to use Iraq as a base for attacking any other countries; there goes one of the (presumed) reasons for the original invasion, and a talking-point of Bush and McCain.

Which brings us to judgment. Frankly, I have no idea what's right at this point, either in Iraq or Afghanistan. I've read a lot about the Russian involvement in the latter place. I think military action there is even more fragmentary and dangerous than Iraq. But this much is clear: if there was a chance to get on top of things in Afghanistan it was when we first went there, when we had the world on our side, and when we'd amazed the Muslim world with the effectiveness of our military, compared with Russia in the past. Bailing out to do Iraq was a disastrous decision, in my opinion; we are now bogged down in both places. It's on Bush; and those who most loudly supported him, who cheer-led the decision to go to Baghdad. McCain, in other words. That's the judgment, that's the understanding of complexity on which he's to be judged, not a desperate tactic necessitated by the wrong decision leading up to it.

As a surgeon, I've been asked more than once: what's more important, experience or judgment. Without question, in my view it's the latter. You can be around a long time, do lots of operations -- and do them poorly. What makes the patient safe is exercising proper judgment, in deciding whether or not to operate, which operation to do, how properly to carry it out, what to do when things aren't as they were supposed to be. Some judgment, of course, comes from experience. But not all, and maybe not even the most important of it. Some people simply don't have the right synapses. I've seen doctors who can quote chapter and verse, but can't diagnose themselves out of a paper bag. Surgeons who panic when the going gets tough, can't come up with the right solution.

Two years before John McCain was saying "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," Barack Obama was pointing out the impending mortgage default crisis, and calling for action. In other words, on the two most important and impactful issues of our time -- the wars and the economy -- Obama was prescient: he saw the dangers correctly, and McCain did not. That's judgment, and in my view it's dispositive.

Commander-in-Chief. It's not by accident that the Constitution puts the military under civilian control. I care less about personal military experience (I must say I always laughed when Hillary Clinton repeated that she and McCain had "passed the commander in chief test." As if it were a given.) than I do about quality of mind.

In Barack Obama, as opposed to John McCain, I see a person who does not shoot from the hip, who surrounds himself with smart people, who encourages broad input, and is capable of sorting through it. I come back to the Russia/Georgia conflict: McCain is a "pal" of the Georgian president. He was meddling there and encouraging the action in Ossetia. It's the old cold war strategy, pitting countries against one another for cynical gain. "We're all Georgians now," he said. Aggrandizement, black and white, thoughtless.

Each candidate can trot out generals and Secretaries of State. I'm going with Colin Powell. He's both. (Uncharacteristically, I haven't provided links in this post, because it's strictly my opinion and point of view. But the reader might find interesting what one of McCain's most prominent State Department supporters said this morning. Larry Eagleburger. Look it up.)

Health care. I'm in a minority among my peers, in that I favor a single-payor system, a la Medicare. (I've written about that on my Surgeonsblog, and I won't give the reasons again.) So I'm not ecstatic about either candidate's plan; but in my mind there's no question Obama's is far better than McCain's. It will cover more people. McCain's takes the worst of our system -- multiple insurers with multiple plans -- and exacerbates them, while complicating the tax implications to boot. By his own description, it relies on "market forces," which has gotten us where we are in the first place.

Education. Not my strong suit. My wife is president of our local school board, on which she's served nearly twelve years. She disagrees with Obama's support of vouchers. On the other hand, he's been very involved in early childhood education issues (served on a board, as we know....) and supports public schools, and innovation therein. The religious right, to which McCain caters and of which Palin is a charter (heh) member, literally want to destroy public education and make what's left of it a promoter of ignorance. I speak, specifically, of creationism and rejection of science, and promotion of Christianity in our schools. Our national dumbness is getting worse, even as the world is passing us by, in education and innovation. Sarah Palin is an active promoter of the trend.

Church and State. Barack Obama gave a speech, in a large church, about why we can't, as a nation, base policy on the teachings of a single religion, or on a single interpretation of the Bible. Like his speech on race, it was gutsy, direct, and thoughtful. He has, of course, been criticized for it by many on the religious right. But he was the one that was right. John McCain, to his credit, keeps his religious beliefs pretty closed. In fact -- and this is just opinion -- I think he implies he's more religious than he really is. He once called Falwell and Robertson "agents of intolerance." He flipped famously. So he appears to use religion cynically, as a vote-getter. That's the worst of all.

On the other hand, Sarah Palin has made it clear that she's like George Bush, only worse: she believes she's carrying out God's will, and that that is the bottom line of governance. Dangerous. As are her opinions about religion and public school.

Choice. I'm for it.

Gay Rights. I disagree with all the candidates, in that none supports gay marriage. Obama strongly supports civil unions. Far as I can tell, so does McCain, but he doesn't like to talk about it. Barack Obama came out against California Prop 8. McCain has been silent. [Update: I was wrong. McCain is for it. Bad.] On the other hand, Sarah Palin wants a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. That's repellent to me. In fact, I don't even think it ought to be a state's rights issue: some things are about equality and fairness, and the federal Bill of Rights.

Energy. [I just realized I left this out, and am adding it a couple hours after posting originally.] Both candidates seem to acknowledge the need to get ourselves off foreign oil, and off oil altogether in the long run. But McCain's craven reduction of the issue to "drill, baby, drill" raises real questions about his seriousness and commitment. One gets the sense that alternative energy sources are an afterthought in McCain's plans, and that they are at the center of Obama's. Nothing could be more important to our security.

The potential for nuclear energy is great, and I'm not highly worried about plant safety per se. But I do think disposal of radioactive waste is a huge issue, the answer to which is not yet evident. In that, I agree with Obama. And I sense, as usual, a rather simplistic view by McCain. Obama indicates a desire to commit significant federal money to research and development of alternative fuels and sources. I wouldn't anticipate much from the McCain freeze.

Foreign Policy. It's not trivial that the entire world seems to hope for an Obama victory. That George Bush has made us more hated and distrusted, that he's told the world we are law unto ourselves (and, in fact, that our own laws don't even apply to us), is a security issue. We can't protect ourselves from terrorism without the cooperation of the world. Cooperation comes from respect and a sense of common purpose. That's gone under Bush, and McCain, as referenced above, seems to have the same binary world-view. The Georgia/Russia episode is a good example.

Barack Obama sees the complexities and interconnectedness of the world. Much has been made of his willingness to engage our enemies diplomatically. I see it as absolutely essential, and the proof is everywhere: George Bush's rejection of it has made things worse everywhere. What few successes he's had -- the best example being Korea -- are those in which he finally reversed his OK Corral approach and returned to talking. McCain has been among those mocking Obama for saying he'd talk. It's simply incomprehensible to me. Nixon/Mao. Kennedy/Khrushchev. Reagan/Gorbachev. It's not weakness. It's belief in one's strength.

And finally: I truly don't see how anyone could look at the interviews in the post below and not see Barack Obama as a man of intelligence, thoughtfulness, inclusiveness, humor, wisdom. I'm starving. I'm longing to -- and I know how the right likes to seize on such statements -- be proud of my country again, as I have always been until eight years ago. I traveled in the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. Race riots were happening in Alabama, police and dogs attacking Blacks. In museums, schools, parks, I'd be accosted by Russians claiming how bad our country was; and I'd defend it strenuously. We are fighting this fight for the world, I said. (I was fluent in Russian, back then.) Racial hatred is everywhere, I argued. We're going to deal with it and solve it. I can't defend Guantanamo, torture, preëmptive invasions, suspension of habeus corpus. I can't argue that our denial of global warming, that our forcing religious views on others (I refer to tying certain foreign aid to reproductive choice) reflects the best we can do.

In John McCain I see more of the same: arrogance and dismissiveness. Tough talk as substitute for deep thinking. In Barack Obama, I see a president, a commitment to engaging all parts of our country, and of the world. Most important, I see a man of great intelligence, calm, and wisdom. I see neither perfection nor worship-worthiness. But I see depth and breadth and the potential -- to the extent that a president can actually do things -- meaningfully and successfully to address the nearly impossible problems we face. And I happen to believe, as he does, that getting it done really does require change from the bottom up: that citizens have a duty to be heard, constantly, to hold our politicians accountable.

Which is why I'd see a loss as so tragic. It would mean, once again and finally, that division and deception and narrowness are what drives our politics; that our democracy, with its degradation by hyperpartisanship, by magical thinking, by ignorance, is no longer capable of facing and solving the really tough problems. It will be -- and I mean this absolutely literally -- a vote for our own destruction.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Journalist. Candidate. Intelligent Interview

If you want to see an interview by a thoughtful and intelligent journalist, and responses by an intelligent and thoughtful candidate, look below. For those of you who might be less inclined to appreciate it, I warn that the first couple minutes are a little snarky. But Rachel Maddow is what we need in our media people: smart, informed, straightforward. These interviews are, in my opinion, the best I've ever seen: good and substantive questions on serious subjects. How nice it would be if they were all like that. In my opinion, there's much to admire in Senator Obama's answers: depth, intelligence, bipartisanship. Would that people could see it. It's hard for me to believe that if skeptics would allow themselves a moment of openness, they'd not be impressed that THIS is what we need in a president. Not ideologic. Not hyperpartisan. Pragmatic, knowledgeable, direct. The choice, to me, is clear as mountain water.

We haven't had someone like this in the White House for what seems like ever. If only our politics allowed people to observe, rather than react.






Traction


When planning surgery, weighing the options and discussing them with patients, I always had to consider the worst possible outcomes. Or maybe it's just because I'm a Democrat.

Whatever the reason, I find myself less than confident that Obama will win the election. After flailing around aimlessly, bouncing from one ineffectual theme after another, revealing his central lack of conviction on pretty much anything, the McCain campaign seems to have settled on something that's getting apparent traction: Obama's a socialist, and Joe the Plumber doesn't like him. It makes no sense, it's completely baseless and unfactual; it's cynical and nasty.

In other words, it's the perfect Republican strategy.

And, watching interviews of pundits and of McCain's fellow-travelers, it appears people are buying it. "Socialist," they holler. "Marxist." One is left to wonder how many of those hooters could define either socialism or Marxism; and one is quite certain that they could no more outline specifics of Obama's economic plans that amount to it than they could name ten presidents. What they can do is latch onto that perfect phrase: "income redistribution." I've written about it before, nearly laughed it off because it's so ridiculous.

God knows I have abiding faith in the superficiality of the American voter. That both candidates voted for the bailout (which can rightly be viewed as a partial step toward socialism, except that it isn't the long-term goal) escapes them. Perhaps that's because John McCain was so two-faced about it that he nearly ran himself down dashing in and out of the room. And mainly, the fact that what Obama proposes is simply a readjustment of tax rates -- just as McCain (and every candidate who's ever run for president) does, except that McCain's proposals exacerbate the inequities and deficits and disaster we've gotten under Bush -- makes no difference: McPalin says it's socialism, and therefore by golly it is.

From the beginning, McCain has made it clear he thinks the electorate is stupid. It was just a matter of finding a message sufficiently idiotic to match up. No sense appealing to our better selves; no point in facing facts: Obama's pretty much got that segment locked up. Find something really moronic, dumb it down to the most simple-minded, and run with it. And so he did. And so I'm worried.

In my state, Washington, the lowest turnout in the primaries was among the 18 - 25 age group. Now it's true that on the Democratic side, the primary was essentially meaningless because the caucuses had already determined the outcome. Still, it concerns me. It's that group that has come out in huge numbers at rallies, and who are the core of the grunts in the campaign. I worry that they'll follow prior form and not vote in the needed numbers. Which would be doubly tragic. It's their future that has been mortgaged away and degraded by the presidency of George Bush. It's their security that would most certainly be placed further out of reach by John McCain, who differs from Bush on the economy and on foreign policy only in the ways he'd worsen Bush's mistakes. The "socialism" theme has the crazies riled up; the recent polls might have the young people overconfident.

There is, of course, one actual socialist on the ticket: as governor of Alaska, which owns its oil, Sarah Palin annually redistributes the wealth of the state to its people. And every time they hear about it, her crowd of America-lovin' socialism haters cheer and weep and look for an Obama supporter to beat up.

Say It Ain't So, Joe

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Prop 8



I'm re-posting here something I originally wrote on my other blog. Having lived in California for several years, having friends and neighbors who were gay, I find the ballot measure there to ban gay marriage particularly upsetting. In short, there's simply no reason for such a measure other than hatred, fear, or, at best, misguided belief.


During training, in San Francisco, our landlords were Dan and Del, a couple who'd been together for several years, and who remained together for another twenty-five or more, until Del died. Loving, thoughtful, and kind, they were the best landlords ever; eventually we bought the house we'd been renting from them, and they gave us a great deal. Terrific guys. We visited them whenever we returned to SF. I talked to Dan recently, not long after Del had died, in his seventies I think.

Here are a few things that I consider inarguable.

First: By logic, and by mounting scientific evidence, sexual preference is largely determined by genetics or other biologic factors. (Logic = in a society that discriminates and harasses and to a large extent reviles, who'd choose to be gay?) I recognize there's a spectrum, and that people at all points on the spectrum are capable of experimentation. But for most -- and especially those committed enough to want to marry -- it seems beyond obvious that homosexuality is not a matter of choice. Corollary: You can't catch gay. Additional corollary: if you think your god considers gays sinners, it seems he's the one making them, which says more about your god than about gays.

Second: For all of recorded history, in every culture, in every religion, in every country, there have been homosexuals. It's part of life. (And considering their contributions, a very positive part of it.)

Third: There is no argument against gay rights other than religious. In order to oppose gay rights, you have to believe one thing that's demonstrably wrong, and another that's unprovable; that is, you have to believe both that homosexuality is a choice, and that it is an abomination in the eyes of your particular version of the Person- or Persons-in-the-Sky. But on this planet there are lots of views of the sky-people and what they do and don't want. One is entitled to one's, but not to foist it on others. "Defense of Marriage" is a bogus argument of the bumper sticker variety: I've seen no discussion, nor any attempt to have one, other than simple declaration, that explains why my heterosexual marriage of thirty-seven years is in any way threatened or diminished in value if gays are allowed to marry. None. What evidence there is on the subject is to the contrary: in Massachusetts there has been no decline in heterosexual marriage since gay marriage was approved. The same is true in countries that allow it. (The opposite, in fact, seems to be the case.) Which is, of course, exactly as expected: there simply is no line that can be drawn between allowing gays to marry and the decline of heterosexual marriage. Nor need it be said: heterosexual marriage has been on the decline for decades; gay marriage appears only recently.

Fourth: Lots of good-hearted people feel uncomfortable about and around homosexuals. Many religions, in fact, seem in very large measure predicated on dealing with sexual discomfort of all sorts. Hide women, cover them up. Separate them from men. Marry a bunch at once and keep them all silent. Sexual pleasure is sinful. Especially the personal kind. Religious mores, as they apply to sexuality, seem based on repression, which in turn is based on fear of one's own sexuality, displaced on others.

I don't like anything about brussels sprouts. I don't even like looking at them. Yet it doesn't threaten me that others do; nor do I feel the need for a law to keep others from eating them. From a secular point of view, there is no reason to oppose gay marriage. It has no impact on society, one way or the other. Objections are based on religion, or on personal discomfort, neither of which are the business of civil law. Unless it can be shown that gay marriage is in some way a threat to our country (it can't), there is no justification for passing laws to prevent it. (It's fair to ask if there's harm to kids living in a gay household. But the evidence is to the contrary. Which is also intuitive: growing up in a love-filled home ought to be good for any kid. How many kids are in homes where they're not wanted?) And since sexual preference is biologic, it would be expected to have no impact on that of the child. Questions? Sure. Grow up more tolerant? The horror! Moreover, the logical extension of preventing it would be to forbid lesbian women from having babies. I'd think even religious conservatives would recoil from the state mandating who can bear children. Right? Right?...)

Among the oft-heard and stupid phrases one hears in the public square, at or near the top of the list is "the homosexual agenda." (Although, recently, "terrorist fist jab" has a special sort of transcendent lunacy that's hard to top.) It's freighted with hatred and fear, and implicit misunderstanding. Those who use the phrase, it seems to me, must be a little uncertain about their own sexuality: afraid they might be susceptible. After all, those who doth protest too much... That there is an "agenda" at all is pretty laughable, other than the desire to have the same civil rights as everyone else. Or is there something more sinister? Laws outlawing bad fashion? Outing closet thespians? Seems to me wanting an end to harassment and the right to marry hardly qualifies as an agenda. Unless breathing does, too.

Two adults love each other. They want to marry. Where's the harm? If a church doesn't approve of gay marriage, it shouldn't perform them. If you don't like gay marriage, don't do it.

Stick that on your bumper!

Murder

[This picture makes me physically ill: two weeks earlier he spoke at my college, and I was there. And yet, it's relevant.]


Scum like those dirtbags plotting to kill Barack Obama and dozens of black students existed before Obama's campaign, and will exist after; McPalin didn't create them. But they're chumming the waters; intentionally or not (I suppose it depends on how narrowly one defines "intention") they're providing the substrate for the bottom-feeders. And not all of them are as incompetent as these guys.

Everyone knows such people are out there. I'm sure I'm not alone in worrying about the possibility of assassination. So it's hard to hear the incendiary remarks coming from campaign podiums -- associating Obama with terrorism, calling him a communist, implying (if not saying outright) that he hates America, he'll take your belongings -- without feeling sick. How much incentive do those whack jobs (to use a recently reprised phrase) need to act? And the campaign literature, some of it directly from and the rest of it implicitly condoned by McCain and his party, is even worse.

I've not been more certain of anything than I am of this: if Barack Obama is elected he will govern from the center (okay, the left side of it, but not all the way), and his message of commonality will remain central. No matter how successful he is, the worst of us will remain close-minded and refuse to listen. Will enough of the people in the above-linked video, and the many others like them, allow themselves to wait, and to observe, and give him a chance? Will they judge him on what he does and doesn't, giving our country a chance, too; or will the stirred-up venom of the campaign, the call to our worst, reverberate down and down and take him -- and us all - with it? It really is in our hands, not Obama's.

If we let them, these young people might have a chance to grow up and save us all:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Funnyoid


When does it simply become farce? I suppose when it's this serious, the answer is "never." Still, John McCain and Sarah Palin are saying such outrageous things lately, that laughter might be the only appropriate response.

Briefly tacking back to substance, John McCain discusses energy. In the process, he derides Barack Obama for suggesting he'd consider nuclear energy, but thinks it ought to be "safe, environmental...blah blah blah." Is literally how McCain put it. To the hoots and hollers of his audience. What typical liberal bullshit: safety. Of nukes. And the audience cheers wildly at the put-down.

Are we on the same planet? It makes his air-quotes around the issue of women's health seem positively new-age sensitive. How can it be that an audience would jeer the idea of nuclear safety? Chernobyl anyone? Three Mile Island? Submarines (at which they really laughed. A knee-slapper!)? Who ARE these people?

Voters.

And Sarah Palin, who never phagocytosed a lie she wouldn't tell, is still spreading the previously-debunked nuttery that Obama has already written his inaugural address. (The right-wing blogosphere vibrated with the news, which derives from the fact that John Podesta, in a book he wrote while still working for Hillary, proposed an inaugural speech he thought a Democratic president ought to give.) The woman who says her source of information, magazine- and newspaper-wise, is "all of them" might be thought actually know the real story. Yet on she lies, with the fluidity of the Kenai. I'd laugh, if it weren't so appalling. Is there no one on the right who finds this too much? Is everything acceptable to further the cause, such as it is? Is there nothing she can say from which even partisans would recoil, thinking, hey can't she find something true to say? Is our party so bereft?

Or how about her latest escalation of the "wealth redistribution" theme: Obama wants to nationalize all property. He's a terrorist socialist communist America hater now. Che Guevara? He wants people to be able to share in the wealth (what's left of it) of this nation, and that makes him a communist? Is that the only model? From a simple phrase, the only manifestation of which is a proposal to raise the tax rates on the wealthy to where they were eight years ago, in prosperous times, Palin claims he wants to take everyone's property. Did she come up with that herself? Do the words burn her lips?

If she's the face of the new Republican party, it's no about-face. Same old, same old, is what it is. The stuff that got us where we are. Maverick? Well, yes, when it comes to truth.

Maybe, as the McPalin campaign resorts to such outrageous falsehood, some potential supporters will turn away. In these perilous and demanding times, where reasoning and cooperation will be demanded in amounts not seen since 1776, one would certainly hope so. But that was then, when education and discourse were valued. The party of Thomas Jefferson, the most educated and brilliant of our founders, holder of the largest collection of books in the country in his time, has devolved to the party that elevates mediocrity to a sacrament; that considers cluelessness a virtue, and facts irrelevant.

Hooray!


I'm back online. And in the name of fairness, I must say the Verizon tech who came this morning knew his stuff.

I made a little mistake: I was so happy to have service at home again, I didn't have him stay to see if I could get my wireless router to work, the failure of which was the original problem. (In the interim I got a new router, an Airport Extreme.) Well, it didn't work. Couldn't get an IP address from the modem. I called Apple who, after a few maneuvers, said (correctly) the problem was with the modem. I called Verizon again, who said (incorrectly) the problem was the router. After a considerable effort, I was still in the he said/he said dilemma, needing to choose between suicide and a final attempt. I called Verizon back. This time, I connected, randomly, with a damn genius; he had me do a couple of things none of the others had ever suggested, the most important and obvious of which was to poke a little reset hole in the back of the modem. I hadn't known it was there, and none of the prior techs had suggested it at all.

Viola!! All's well with the world (okay, not with the world, but with my little network within it.) I even took the time to talk to the guy's supervisor, who answered the phone with trepidation in his voice that surely comes from receiving generally angry feedback. Not this time: I lauded the guy till I was foaming at the mouth.

Poor John


The Republican apologists and political pundits who are already doing post-mortems on the John McCain campaign seem to agree: the crashing economy came out of nowhere and stole the election from him. Right. But wrong. It's not the economy, stupids, its the way he responded to it.

Poor guy, they say. He was doing great, but the economy -- the tanking (or is it cratering) thereof -- gave the election to the Democrats. Horsepucky. To the extent that the election is swinging Obama's way (and it's WAY too soon to believe it), and to the extent that the economy is a factor, it's because in his reaction, John McCain has looked out of it and ineffectual. "The fundamentals of the economy are strong," he said, as the walls crumbled. Grandstanding, he non-suspended his campaign, called for delay of the debate. He said he'd fire Christopher Cox, he returned to Washington, where he accomplished nothing, misstated the state of the bailout twice, sat mute at the much ballyhooed White House conference.

Had John McCain actually appeared as a leader, as someone who understood what was going on, who advanced the ball, it's my opinion he'd have had a chance to look okay. But he didn't; the economy didn't damage him: he damaged him. By contrast, Barack Obama called for a joint statement from himself and McCain, recognized the need to let the Congress do what it does, went back and did his part, made reasoned proposals. And suggested the people needed to hear the debate at this of all times, that presidential candidates ought to be able to multi-task.

I doubt newspaper endorsements affect many votes; but it's interesting to me that there's a growing list of those that have rarely -- and in several cases NEVER -- endorsed a Democrat who are doing so now. In very red cities and states. There's a consistency of reasoning: temperament, intelligence, inclusiveness. And Sarah Palin.

I've been disappointed often enough to remain unsure. It seems campaigns have too often turned on the trivial. So here I am suggesting that voters may be showing signs of maturity, of voting the issues for once. Of voting for the person who seems, paradoxically, to be the adult in the room, the consistent thinker, the steady and reliable and intelligent.

I could be wrong.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crazy Talk


No longer able to be amazed at political stupidity, I comment once again on the latest inanity: "wealth redistribution." For the Republican party and Joah McPalin, it's the distortion du jour.

To state the obvious: the only government that's not in the business of redistributing wealth is one that collects zero money; ie, no government that's ever existed. You pay taxes, the government gets the money and sends it somewhere, in a transaction that is known as, oh, redistribution. Any change in any tax leads to re of the distribution. Last wealth redistributer: George Bush, when he took money from the peons and gave it to rich folks. Next in line: anyone who makes any change in that plutoid formula.

Whoever it was who said you'd never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people must be all achuckle. Newspapers, talking heads, even commenters here on at least one occasion, are spitting it out like it's poison, certain that it's also a winner for McPalin. Socialism it is!!! Taking money from taxpayers in differing patterns based on income!! If Barack Obama weren't spending all his time palling around with terrorists, he'd be plotting it right now. And he's a liberal terrorist, so he'd probably call it, say, maybe, oh, a PROGRESSIVE income tax. It could happen here, folks. It could happen here.

A recent study found that Republicans are "happier" than Democrats. Well, duh. When your response to reality is to deny it, when facts are minor impediments on the road to ignorance, of course you're happy. (The study also said they're richer.) I'm gonna call it the happiness response: it's like the flight option of "fight or flight." Hardwired, at least in the credulous.

This idea that any change in Bush's incredibly unbalanced and ineffective tax structure is, by definition, socialism, is like saying improving your kids' education is brainwashing. Returning to some of the tax policies of Bill Clinton??? Why that'd be like, like, going back to times of, what did they call it back then, what was that concept, fading from memory?

Oh yeah.

Prosperity.

I believe John McCain is smart, at least enough to know what bullshit this is. And there's no doubt he thinks so little of his "base" that he assumes they'll eat it. Unsurprisingly, lots of them are. From every angle, his campaign assumes the worst in us, treats us like we're stupid. If it works again, as it has in the past, our descent is unstoppable.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Over The Verizon


I sit forlorn in a local coffee shop, in the death throes of internet withdrawal. For a couple of days, my access at home is totally kaput, and for the previous five it's been intermittent and marginal. I'm told there's no hope until at least Tuesday. And with the economy as it is, I can spend only so much on latte.´ So my posting and commenting will be sporadic at best.

Meanwhile, let me say as respectfully as possible: Verizon online services is the worst example of customer service on this planet and likely all neighboring ones. It sucks beyond anything I'd thought possible. Several times a day for nearly a week, I've been on the phone with them. I've been disconnected at least half of the time, with no callbacks (helpfully, they always ask for a number to call back on should we be disconnected. We have. They haven't.) Grinding my teeth, I've listened as a robotic female voice tells me most problems can be solved by going to their website. THEIR WEBSITE. While I have no access. Pacing in a rage while she goes through a now memorized list of options, speaking words into their inhuman option tree, I've been given erroneous information several times. One "expert" managed to reprogram my router so it is now totally defunct. I've been given numbers to call that don't go to the proper place. This is a PHONE COMPANY ferchrissakes. They are absolutely awful, unimaginably so. They couldn't provide poorer service if they made crap their gold standard. Each conversation begins with the same apologies, the same requests for the same information, and ends, after an hour or two of fruitless effort, with the words "Thank you for choosing Verizon and have a nice day."

Some day I'll invent some sort of zapper that vaporizes the person on the other end of the line. Even if I make it so that it only works for Verizon tech support and customer service, I'll make a billion dollars. Until, hopefully, they are out of business forever. It's no exaggeration to say that this experience, customer-service-wise, has been the worst I've ever suffered, by a factor of a trillion (and since that number is tossed around like a wiffle-ball of late, light as a feather, let me point out it's actually a very big number.) Until this week, I'd never have believed a company that provides such poor support could survive. But then, I'd never have imagined a person as superficial and so obviously a fake as Sarah Palin could generate loving crowds, either.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Now She's Gone TOO Far!


Has Sarah Palin no remnant of decency? Is there no line she won't cross? Fruit flies??? FRUIT FLIES?? Now it's personal.

Fruit flies are my friends. Fruit flies got me into medical school. Fruit flies allowed me hours of goofing off I'd otherwise have had to spend taking more college credits. Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) taught me how to get up at two a.m. to run to work. (The little buggers fornicate within hours of birth; separating them before the love-fest is essential to maintaining chromosomal purity.) Enough, woman, ENOUGH!!!

In college I was a biology major, focusing on genetics. My honors project, "Intra-allelic recombination at the RUBY locus in Drosophila Melanogaster," is the stuff of legends in the old bio building at Amherst. (Well, if that's true, it's because when I presented it, I dedicated the work to Ray Charles "who predicted the very results I'm about to present, when he said, "They say, Ruby you're like a dream, not always what you seem..."

Replaced largely by viral and bacterial genetics, the venerable fruit fly still has its place, an important one at that, in genetic research. While not as fast as bacteria, generations come rapidly enough to allow study over time that would be much longer in other animals; and the phenotypes (the outward manifestation of various genes, ie, the "ruby" eye color) are easily identified. Fruit fly genetics has an honored place in the history of modern biology, and still belongs in the mix of important and promising research.

So, Sarah Palin, I say to you in all sincerity: before you shoot off your mouth, spend a dime on a science advisor as well as your makeup artist. Shut up, good madam; in the name of reason and rationality, stick to what you know: nothing!!! Nothing at all. Good day!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Science

I asked a question of my most conservative friend, one who seriously believes Barack Obama is a Muslim, an al Queda sympathizer, a hater of white people. Okay, I said. From these postulates one ought to be able to form a testable hypothesis. Assuming he wins, what do we expect if you're right? 

We're both intelligent people, I said (wondering, if only a little, about the all-encompassing truth of the statement.) Tell me what events will derive from your beliefs, assuming they're true? What observations will we be able to make after Obama is sworn in? Over what time frame would you suppose these things will occur? And at what point, absent those predicted events, would you be willing to say the theory is disproved? 

He didn't answer. But I think it's a fair set of questions, which ought to be directed to those who are similarly convinced. It is, after all, only science. And, one would hope, it ought to be objectively tested.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mayberry Votes




[Thanks to pootergooch for this.]

Getting Real



Some things are obvious. Others are saying it, too. When you cut through the crap, push away "he's a terrorist, they hate America," and listen to what Obama says, comparing it to the tone and text of McPalin's campaign, nothing could be more clear: If it's possible to get through these tough times -- and I'm not at all certain it is -- the style and substance of the leadership offered by Barack Obama is exactly what we need, and those of McPalin are exactly what we don't. And that, of course, is why McPalin are trying to change the subject. And change it. And change it. And change it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fan Club


Who knows what exactly to make of this, but it certainly fits with what I've said many times: the "War on Terror," as constituted by George Bush and trumpeted by John McCain -- and, most specifically, the invasion of Iraq -- has done more for al Queda than they could possibly have dreamed. 

As they watch from wherever, living in whatever, their glee must be hard to contain: the US is bogged down in two wars, their own strength is increasing, and our economy is in the tank. As to the latter, I'd guess they see the expenses incurred as a result of our misguided war as a prime factor. Keep it up, they must be saying: we're bringing you down and all it took was three airplanes. You've done the rest to yourselves; and, if we're lucky in the election, you'll continue to do so. Go, Johnny, go.

Hair Of The Dog


I won't raise the issue of the $150,000 McCain's campaign has spent on outfitting Sarah the Plumb; that would be crass, like, say, the flap over John Edwards' haircuts. Coming, as it does, on the stilettos of the phony Michelle Obama/caviar story: precious. 

Far be it from politicos to be two-faced. Far be it from me to be amused at the campaign's two-step over it. Let's listen to smooth jazz, instead.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Commies


You could knock me over with a feather: the Republicans have adopted a new meme and it makes no sense! Didn't see that coming.

So every Republican talking head, starting with John McCain and his marionette Sarah Palin, is screaming "socialism!!!" "redistribution of wealth!!!" As if there is some tax system that is not a redistribution of wealth. And coming from Sarah Palin, whose state owns all its oil and divvies up profits to its people (socialism, anyone?) it's particularly amusing.

What happened when Bush and his Congress pushed his tax-cuts for the wealthy? Redistribution of wealth. Up. And if we were to return to the (highly successful) tax policies present during the Clinton years? Redistribution of wealth. Down. Is there anything more obvious? It reminds me of the politician (some say it was, ironically, Red-baiting Florida Senator George Smathers) who said of his opponent: in college he matriculated in public, his wife was a known thespian, and he practiced nepotism with his sister-in-law.

Once again we are left to wonder if the people who fall for this (some of them are intelligent enough to be reading and commenting on this blog) are present in large enough numbers to affect an election. Meanwhile, anyone wanna predict how many more days before John McCain forswears his last vestige of honor and starts campaigning on Reverend Wright?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Differences

Grabbing a few images from online, it's pretty easy to see the difference between an Obama rally....





...and one for McCain.



And, I suppose, it explains pictures like this:


Okay, even I don't think it's all about racism. But it's pretty striking how broad and inclusive is the appeal of Obama, and how narrow is that of McCain.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Now We Know



Why the phony outrage over ACORN and registration fraud? (Reminder: false registrations do NOT lead to false voting!!) It's Three Card Monte. Don't watch what the other hand is doing.

All across the country, while trumping up ACORN anger, Republicans are systematically purging voters from the rolls. It's not surprising: they've been doing it for years. But the scale is increasing, the diversions now more necessary than ever. As Fox news screams about fraud of no consequence, they -- and nearly everyone else -- fails to notice the real danger to democracy.

These are the people who are pro-America? They haven't a clue what America really is.

Sickening


I barely have the words to express the sadness and literal sickness I feel at the sight of Sarah Palin campaigning around the country, deliberately pitting one against another, framing this election as about those who love this country vs those that hate it. The McPalin campaign is fully committed to such diviseness. They're funding robocalls by the very company that slimed McCain in 2000, denounced by him then, now hired by him to do the same thing to Obama. At the precipice, while one campaign calls for finding common ground, for an end to that sort of divisiveness, the other is doing the opposite. And the polls are tightening. It still works.

Do they really not see how damaging it is? Do they believe that serving on a charitable foundation with William Ayers portends more danger to our country than the seeds they are sewing? Does winning justify tearing us asunder? It's simply unfathomable. And yet, it still works.

Their people feel comfortable in their hatreds. These self-described America-loving, Jesus-following patriots need to hate. They find difficult problems too difficult. Really to follow their Savior's teachings is too complicated: how much more comfortable simply to hate than to make the effort required to find a way forward with people with whom you disagree on some things. The more challenging and threatening the times, the more they recede into simple-mindedness. To do otherwise is too scary. A closed mind keeps out the cold.

Therein lies the real secret of the Republican party. The smart people within it (and yes, I believe there are a few of them) know that in order to get their "base" (how appropriate a term) voters willingly to vote for policies that are clearly against their own interests, they need to tap the correlation between conservative thinking and religious and social fundamentalism. It's no coincidence that the most fundamentalist religionists are nearly exclusively in the right wing. People who need to see the world in black and white, who deal with existential questions by blanking them out with absolutist thinking, are not, by definition, contemplative. And so we have it: whipping up enthusiasm by pitting us against them; framing politics as an internal struggle, those who love the country against those that don't.

And the obvious -- that criticism and arguing we can do better is not unAmerican any more than correcting your children is child abuse -- escapes them. The paradox of their argument -- that exercising the very tenets of our country's founding: freedom of speech, speaking out against injustice means you don't love the country -- is unnoticed.

In the press conference that will never happen (why?), Sarah Palin should be asked: what are the areas of this country that hate America? In what way is that hatred expressed? What, exactly, are the "small town values" that she praises? In what larger cities do they not exist and what is the evidence? And this: do you think there's danger in pitting one half of the country against the other? Why not run a campaign on ideas, why not plant the seeds of reconciliation? And when she gets through those, how about comparing sitting on a board with William Ayers with sleeping with a guy who was a member of a party that literally hates America, to whose membership she herself has said "keep up the good work."

Who is doing more harm to America? Sarah Palin and her elderly enabler, pitching fear and hate, or Barack Obama and Joe Biden, who are speaking of hope and common ground? It's another of those things that seem as obvious as the sunrise. And yet, here we are again. It still works. It makes me fear for our future. And it makes me sick.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Hits Keep Coming


The Washington Post, possessed lately of a generally conservative editorial board, endorses Barack Obama. In doing so, they join a steady and entirely one-sided (meaning the list is notably short on McCain endorsements) outpouring. The final paragraph says, "...Mr. Obama's temperament is unlike anything we've seen on the national stage in many years. He is deliberate but not indecisive; eloquent but a master of substance and detail; preternaturally confident but eager to hear opposing points of view. He has inspired millions of voters of diverse ages and races, no small thing in our often divided and cynical country. We think he is the right man for a perilous moment."

Exactly.

Given a chance, and a little open-mindedness on the part of skeptics, I predict -- assuming he's able to pull off a win -- he'll be something we haven't seen in quite a while, something good, and that the lies and scares will be soundly and resoundingly disproved. Minds will be changed. Wonder if these folks will be among them.

[Update: First ever Democrat to be endorsed, here. And another endorsement from a conservative talk-show host, here.]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nutz


John McCain thinks ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) threatens "the very fabric of our democracy." It's but one of the ways he has his minions in a frenzy of indignant rage. For purposes of discussion, how about we ignore the fact that he was for it before he was against it. Let's just talk about "voter fraud," and try to distinguish it from registration fraud, which is what happened.

The most obvious point is that, to the extent fraud was perpetrated, it was against ACORN!! It's fair to criticize them for what happened, for poor organization and oversight, but the ripoff was from their funds. They paid unemployed people to register voters. Those folks, some of them anyway, turned in false forms. Free and unfettered enterprise. How Republican! And, in those cases, ACORN paid and got nothing in return.

So: phony names, in pretty small numbers percentage-wise, have turned up. Fraudulent? Yes. But here's the thing: Mickey Mouse can't vote! Nor can, in one state, the offensive line of a football team in another. This whole tempest of righteous indignation is, indeed, contained within the proverbial teapot. Phony names: no votes. Simple. Fabric unraveling? Not exactly.

On the other hand, true to form, Republicans across the country are threatening, deceiving, and suing voters off the rolls in the most outrageous ways.

To me, the most curious thing is the consistency of the difference: Democrats want to increase voting; Republicans want to prevent it. Democracy. Will of the people. USA, USA, USA!!!

Funny, huh?

[As usual, after writing something I find people out there who say it much better than I.]


Cash Back


Good one!

Poor Bill




I'm sure it's obvious I'm an old guy. Back in the day, I loved watching Bill Buckley's Firing Line. Pomposity and self-satisfaction aside, he always had interesting guests, with whom he usually disagreed, and intelligent discussion ensued. Typically it was respectful, often featuring a friendly exchange of repartee laced with wit. On one occasion he had Eldridge Cleaver (no relation), and as Buckley did his characteristic lean-back, Cleaver did the same. It was some sort of contest against one another and gravity.

I never met the man, but a good friend of my parents was a good friend of his, was credited in some of his books; I heard stories, I liked him despite finding him annoying. And I've read most of his son Chris' books, enjoyed them, met him at a book signing and dropped the name of his dad's friend, got a mild response at best.

Having founded National Review, long considered the official organ of conservatism, William F. Buckley would no doubt have been proud of his son's having acquired a writer's position thereon. And I'd guess that whether he agreed or not with Chris' decision to endorse Barack Obama, he'd have given the opinion credence. Likely a place in the magazine. In fact, it's my opinion he'd have agreed. Whether or not that's true, WFB without question believed in civil discourse and fair hearings, admired opposing arguments well-presented.

Chris Buckley had to resign from National Review after his piece appeared (not, by the way, in that magazine: he said he published elsewhere to avoid embarrassing them). A bucket of vitriol ensued, in the form of comments at NRO: demands to cancel subscriptions, threats of all sorts, outrage at its most primal.

So there we have it: no longer can a person disagree with his party line, even on its formerly most respected repository of reason, no matter how thoughtfully and measured. The pattern has been repeated with other dissenters. Nor would I claim the phenomenon is only on the right. I read, and occasionally post on, the Daily Kos. I see people get roundly criticized, often in the most ugly ways, when they take on "established" viewpoints. But it's only in the "diaries," and rarely in the main columns. There, differing points of view are not rare, and seem well-treated.

Besides, isn't it the Democrats who've always been (until this year) disorganized, unfocused, all over the map? "Lockstep" is the way Republicans march. Dems wander the streets in Birkenstocks, right?

It's pretty awful, all right. We really are beyond coming together. As McPalin continue to fan the flames, the job of the next president gets even harder: there's no quarter on the right, and resentment on the left. If neither party is pure, it's clear that Barack Obama sees the commonality of purpose in solving our problems, and that John McCain either doesn't, or, in putting himself first, doesn't care. These are tough times we face, and we couldn't be more unprepared to address them. With half the country hating or distrusting the other half, and with one set of potential leaders feeding on it, one can't help but have a deep sense of pessimism, even if Barack Obama wins. If he does, and if he's able to persuade at least some of those who are convinced he's a terrorist that he's not; if he's able to call people together enough to propel us towards solutions, then he's even more of a mensch than I think he is.

And if Obama doesn't win, John McCain will preside over a nation at war with itself. He'll get nowhere, and he'll have himself to blame. Wonder if he'd ever come to realize it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Swing And A Miss


Once again, I found myself less than whelmed while watching the (final, thankfully) debate. As to policies, just back and forth with McCain in particular ignoring responses to his thrusts and repeating them over and over. (I do think his dismissal of "health" of the mother -- with air quotes and an ugly face -- when discussing abortion did McCain no good.) With respect to the much anticipated attacks, the "kick his ass" plan of McCain, I'd say he missed badly, sounding crotchety and small, interrupting rudely.

Tie goes to the runner. Obama, being the smooth-running antelope, gets the win.

Death With Dignity

Many years ago, a patient on whom I'd previously operated for breast cancer came to see me, with her adult daughter. She'd recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she'd decided not to have any sort of treatment. None of her current doctors, she said, were ones with whom she felt comfortable sharing her concerns, her desire. At some level, I was touched that she trusted me with her request: making personal connections, establishing trust with my patients was something I valued. What she asked was that I provide her, over time, with enough narcotics and sedatives that, should she choose to do so, she'd be able to take her own life.

In my state, Washington, there's a ballot measure allowing physicians, under very specific conditions, to provide lethal doses of medicines to certain small subgroups of terminally ill patients. Based on a law in place in Oregon for ten years, studies of which have not revealed abuse (and, in fact, a rather low incidence of use), the proposition has, of course, provoked strong opposition. Officially, the state medical association opposes it, and claims its membership overwhelmingly share that view. The fact is that a little over half of the members, myself included, favor it. I realize it's a very difficult issue. And yet, in virtually every hospital in the country, it happens all the time, in ways not very different from what the bill proposes.

I've written about this, if tangentially, on my other blog, too. There are no easy or universal answers. And that's the point. At the time of approaching death, doctors are often at a loss: death, by definition, is a failure for those whose job it is to heal. And yet the job isn't over; we can't turn away. It's generally accepted that a person ought to have the right to refuse care for themselves. Withdrawal of "active" (for lack of a better word) care is a regular occurrence, both in the situation where an alert and cogent patient requests it, and where family does so, for a patient no longer able to decide for him- or herself. It's the former situation -- a mentally clear patient -- to which the "death with dignity" laws apply.

In hospitals, in addition to withdrawal of care, drugs are given for comfort -- narcotics -- wherein the main goal is relief of pain but with the understanding -- because it's part and parcel of the effect -- that the arrival of death will be accelerated. Sometimes there's a sort of dance around that fact, and most certainly there's a need to be certain everyone -- all care-givers and family -- understand and agree. It happens, and to some extent it's extra-legal. It's not euthanasia, it's comfort care. But it's no secret what's happening.

"Death with Dignity" laws take that concept and make it above board, and out of the hospital. I understand how some recoil from it; the law allows not only for doctors to refuse to participate, but also that hospitals have a right to prevent their staff from doing it as well. As it should. But in my view, people have a right, in one of the most difficult, personal, momentous and fraught times of their lives, to make decisions for themselves. To make their own decisions about their own suffering. Not all doctors, of course, would feel right about being drawn in to providing the means. Nor would they have to.

As I read the bill (linked above), I was struck by the stringency of it, and by the complexity of the requirements upon the doctors involved. In fact, it could be -- not to put too fine a point on it -- a pain in the ass. And yet, the airwaves are filled with disinformation and dire warnings: it can be carried out even if the person is depressed (it can't: when depression is suspected, mental health referrals must be made), it can be foisted upon the most vulnerable (I don't see how it can), the sufferer need not notify anyone of his/her decision (that's true: but the law requires that the caregivers encourage it, and document same.)

The subject is difficult and painful. I could write volumes on it; in a way, not to do so is to treat it too simply (if needed, I can enlarge upon my thoughts in comments.) I fully sympathize with those who oppose it; but I don't sympathize with the idea of preventing others, who disagree, from having the option. Realizing it sounds a little flip: if you don't believe in "death with dignity," don't avail yourself of it; nothing forces it on anyone. And don't judge the suffering of others, and how they choose to deal with it.

[For a thoughtful panel discussion of the Oregon experience, read this. It's worth it if for no other reason than to remember, in this political season, that difficult issues can be discussed respectfully by people who disagree with one another.]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dexamethasone

I'm lowering my life-goals. How about this: let's all agree never to use the term "on steroids" again.

It's getting to be everywhere. Google the term and the links won't quit. David Brooks, who needs no excuse to drive me crazy, used the term today, which put me over the edge.

Cliché? More like cliché on st....

Bring It On


Sounds like John McCain is going to bring up the terrorism thing in tomorrow's debate. That's good news (and it would prove me wrong). Let's see, once the facts are on the table, how many people are moved to vote for the old guy. My guess: only those already there; way there. I suppose there's a chance Barack Obama could muff it, sound defensive. But I doubt it. Facts, as they say, have a well-known liberal bias.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to hear the rationalizations. McPOW seems unable to grasp that there's a difference between the candidates themselves whipping up the rabble by implying Obama consorts with and is himself a terrorist, and the occasional Obama supporter saying something stupid.

And we still have another three weeks of this crap.

Down is Up



A friend sent me a link to this post. I think it's pretty good. Always the anti-inflammatory, I'd say it only a little differently. It's not really about white privilege. It's about how easily people rationalize, on behalf of their political beliefs, support for things they'd clearly oppose were they associated with someone from the other side. And vice versa. It's about cynicism and duplicity. It's about the uncanny ability to flip positions willy nilly, without a moment's hesitation. Was there ever a better poster-child than Sarah Palin? Don't her supporters most perfectly demonstrate the two-facedness of political persuasion? Can you imagine any of them not screaming derisively, high-horsed, had the Democrats put forth a candidate like her?

Nor can we ignore the ease -- I don't think she gives it a thought -- with which Moosellini respires lies in response to the Troopergate report. It says, in actual writing using English words and simple phrases, that she violated ethics rules and abused the power of her office. Her response: she's glad it cleared her of violating ethics rules and of abuse of power. Simply stupefying.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Meltup


Today's advance in the stock market says, in ways more obvious than the many others out there, how far from relevancy George Bush has taken the US. (And, by extension, since he agrees with the essence of Bush's foreign and domestic policies, how much further McCain would lead us.)

George Bush fumbled around and came up with a plan (agreed to both by Obama and McCain) that was by most accounts better than nothing but which missed the mark; at least, one could say, that was the judgment rendered by the markets, which tanked. Henry Paulson has looked confused (though not as much as McCain.) It took the leaders of Europe, guided, it appears, by the leftist Gordon Brown of England, to produce a plan that engendered confidence. At least the US plan had in it, one infers, some flexibility; because now it seems the approach has changed in ways which make it similar to that proposed across the pond: injecting capital and taking a stake in some banks, instead of buying up "toxic debt."

In no way is economics my strong suit. It seemed obvious that something had to be done (and that John McCain, taking credit for the passage and then for the failure of the bill after the bill, was of no help at all) but I had no basis for knowing what it might be. (I have been asking people I know who might have a clue, why buying up debt was a better use of the money than providing capital directly, and got not much of an answer.) It's reported that it was Paulson (and, therefore, Bush) who insisted on the US plan as proposed and that Ben Bernanke was for the European approach (I read that this morning, and now I can't find the damn link). Under the crisis scenario claimed by Bush, et al., the Congress felt great pressure to act rapidly. They may have done better, it turns out, to have thought a little longer. All of them. Nevertheless, it's impressive that when it was clear the crisis was spreading to Europe, those folks acted with diligent speed and came up with something far better received. George Bush, once again, looks wrong-headed. Our congressional leaders, not a hell of a lot better.*

A one-day rally does not recovery make. How long the tunnel is, and whether that's actually a light at the end of it remains to be seen.

[To those who'd point out that Obama was party to it, I agree. But -- as opposed to John McCain who showily injected himself into it and then flopped flopped like a grounded fish -- Senator Obama acted like a Senator and not a president, which he is not, yet. He came, he spoke, he voted (McCain voted but didn't speak), leaving the process to those in Congress whose job it was. Were he President, I think he'd have played a very different role. And, given his prescient vision on the matter, I'd guess he'd have handled it differently from Bush.]

Abe


Here's the view through my window yesterday, as the USS Abraham Lincoln (the site of the "Mission Accomplished" speech) returns home from duty. Navy tugs were firing their water cannons in salute, sailors were lined along the entire deck in their dress blues. It's an impressive sight. Welcome home!

And as long as we're looking out my window, here's a sunset that dazzled us a week or two ago:
So life still holds pleasures, even in these most disturbing of times.

Lurch


It's almost funny, were it not so pathetic. Over the weekend, McCain announces he'll be releasing a new economic plan today. Lindsay (I'm as self righteous as Joe Lieberman and even smarmier) Graham was out there on the tubes saying the plan "will be a very comprehensive approach to jump-start the economy, by allowing capital to be formed easier in America by lowering taxes." Well, it's today. Oops.

The operative words, to pick only a sampling of the applicable, are erratic, disarray, incoherent, confused, unbalanced, lost. Which is not to say the campaign is over. I've written about how conservatives think differently from liberals; about that amazing study showing that when presented with facts which disprove a position, they actually increase their belief in that position. Today, McPalin are out with a new ad that even more brazenly hypes the Obama-as-terrorist connection. (For an excellent fact-check, read this.)

So I guess the question is this: will people take note of, and be appropriately distressed by the way, under duress, John McCain is lurching around like a zombie, or will they recede into the ooze of guilt-by-association, distortion, and lies? I'm hopeful; but, past being prologue, I'm a long way from confident.

Update: Gee, after Obama came out with a comprehensive plan today, it looks like McCain changed his mind again. My neck hurts.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Deja Voodoo




In the McPalin campaign of the last couple of weeks we see the perfect microcosm of where we have been taken by the politics of hate, so polished and perfected by Karl Rove, Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich, and, now by John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Even as the economy so carefully built by Reaganomics (on sand) is crumbling, they continue to try to change the subject. The politics of distraction: exactly what got us here in the first place.

At McRallies of late, it's the very people who are shouting "terrorist," "traitor," "treason," "kill him," "bomb him," who surely are the ones most damaged by the policies of the party whose nominee they admire (well, not him so much: his veepette). I admit I don't know their names; but I think it's safe to assume they're not the CEOs and bankers who made off with the money. I'm betting those haters and railers are hurting badly; like mine, their savings have been washing away. No doubt many will be jobless before long. And yet, they spew their hatred as they are whipped to a frenzy by Palin's know-nothing-and-proud-of-it class warfare, by her insinuations that Barack Obama is a terrorist. Spewing, while being made to ignore what it is that got us where we are. It's all but incomprehensible. Are we really that stupid, us humans? That gullible?

What will it take for people like that to stop and say, "Hey, wait a minute! What just happened?" Will they ever wake up to the obvious, that they've been played for fools? Not even as their futures evaporate? Will they ever notice that they're the ones hurting while the ones that sold it to them are getting off easy; and that they themselves are the ones that enabled it by electing Reagan, Bush, and Bush? And Bush?

It's getting pretty undeniable that Reagan's "trickle-down economics," is indeed the "voodoo economics" that Bush the First called it. And that it was perpetrated only because people were convinced, repeatedly, to look the other way and vote on irrelevancies. And yet. AND YET. Here we are again. McCain and Palin are waving their arms, saying "Don't look over here, look over there. Don't look at the failed policies, get your hate on. Fear. Rage. Elect the same people again, because... because... you hate someone. Yeah, that's it." And, damn! Once again, in the biggest meltdown any of them has ever seen, they're falling for it, choosing hate. It's absolutely incredible.