Persona aside, I tend not to pick fights over politics with strangers. If they’re saying things that are totally batshit, well, I probably will not be able to convince them otherwise and the sake of argument is to convince the other person. If I want to just babble insanely, I can do that in the bathroom; or, on a blog. Why risk the aggravation?
However, a few weeks ago I was sitting with my wife who has added macular degeneration to colon cancer as reasons to be happy for modern medicine or to curse getting old. Or both – it’s a fine line. However, we were waiting to see the ophthalmologist and the inner waiting room was filled with seriously old people and on a big screen TV they were showing FOX NEWS. I almost didn’t go in but decided that was stupid. She needs my support and so on and so on. Well, the gentleman sitting next to me was in his 70s and both he and his wife were there for some cataract work and possibly some Lasik. All covered by Medicare, which is a great program and should have been extended for all. Of course, the insurance companies and other interests including big Pharma would have gone bat shit. However, given what happened in 2010, how much worse could the whole Tea Party thing have been? Anyway, the guy started talking about how Obama was looting Medicare to pay for Obamacare and…and I couldn’t take anymore when he started in on the deficit. “Sir, like me you’re old enough to do the arithmetic yourself; do it.” I then enumerated the factual errors behind nonsense. The only medical benefit not paid for through taxes or deductions in any program – Medicare, Medicaid or Obama care is the cost of the prescription drug benefit. That simple. Want to know why we have a deficit? Two wars, unpaid for prior to 2010; a galloping bureaucracy called Homeland Security also largely not paid for; tax cuts with no offsets based on the absurd idea that a budget surplus projected over 10 years should result in massive reduction in tax cuts in year ZERO. The conversation was civil, and the guy listened. I’m sure I’ve figured in some local Bircher conspiracy theory, but what the hell…
I do not find that metaphorically shooting fish in a barrel puts me in the same league as Hemingway’s Fisherman; arguing with this guy didn’t make me the equivalent of Patrick Henry or Clarence Darrow. I decided to drop the proselytizing. However, on the next visit, I refused to go back in that room if that was on TV. My wife was grateful because it was making her angry to. One thing the two of us are not about to complain about is health care that we have – the health care available to others, on the contrary, deserves nothing but condemnation. Not the medicine but the absolute BS that surrounds it.
So, last night we went to dinner at a place I haven’t been since she was in the hospital. Owner had our table, and she made some sly digs about not having seen me lately; after the second one as she bent over to refill my tea, I said, “I got the digs…it’s ok.” Which elicited a laugh. Nice place. Anyway, it was a little louder than usual and people were raising their voices a bit so I felt like I was in the conversation at the next table, where this braindead idiot started accusing Candy Crowley of having set up Mitt Romney, that she and the President were in on it and how else could she have known what the President had said about the Benghazi attack being an act of terrorism? This time, the argument would have been unfriendly and impolite and would have probably included language my young lady friend the owner would not have wanted in her semi-upscale Bistro. Then the fool started in on Voter Fraud. Then, they left…so, no political homicide last night by Crusader AXE of the Lost Causes.
THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR MY KARMA. IT IS NOT GOOD FOR MY BLOOD PRESSURE. IT NEEDS TO STOP. I AM SOOOOOO COMPLETELY READY FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE A FOUR DECADE ORDEAL TO BE OVER!
Dr. Dennis Leary, author, Bon Vivant and Worcester native who did not go to Holy Cross wrote a classic piece of American poetry entitled “Life’s Gonna Suck”. That’s kind of the way I feel about this election – regardless of what happens, life will continue to suck for most of the world and actually, compared to what the potential situation was compared to what is, for most Americans. I feel grateful, of course, that this isn’t Darfur, or Bosnia, or Syria or Ukraine or Mogadishu or Mumbai or any number other locations, hell holes to havens, Nigeria to Norway and beyond. But, while I try to stay based in the reality world as opposed to imaginary world loved by Karl Rove and the Republicans, every now and then I’m overwhelmed by the desire to have things actually be good for once. Truth, justice, freedom, fairness, great schools, great infrastructure, the babies well fed, the young educated and optimistic and the old warm and secure. And, despite my laughter at my Defeatist and Malcontent brothers and sisters over their disappointment with the Obama Administration to actually, you know, what for what it believes in, I envy them this – they aren’t willing to be satisfied with a quarter cup of satisfaction and a promise of tomorrow. So, I am pretty sure that whether Romney pulls it out, Obama bitch slaps him, or fuck it, Gary Johnson somehow, in some universe is going to win, life will continue to suck. More with Romney, less with Obama but still gonna suck.
I’m not the only one who believes this. Muy Amor Maureen Dowd, for example, finds the idea of contrast between Obama and Romney less stark on the human level. Romney, like Obama, is probably a great father. He’s probably good to his wife. He probably doesn’t go down and poison pigeons in the park. He’s got no reason to be president except that the Republican party is bankrupt of leadership and it’s his turn using what seems to be their system of nominating in the next general the guy defeated in previous primaries, based on the idea I guess that candidates need to age, like fine wine or really foul cheese. But, they’re not that different in some regards –
Much was made of the alpha tone of the second presidential debate. But it was more like a parody of alpha, a couple of pampered, manicured Harvard princes kicking up “gorilla dust,” as Ross Perot calls it. In a truly commanding performance, you don’t jab fingers, invade space, bark interruptions. Obama put aside his disdain for jousts and woke up from the “nice, long nap I had in the first debate,” as he wryly said at Thursday’s dinner. But he was overcompensating for the first debacle, and he still didn’t have a vision or memorable zingers or a knockout punch for a rival who hides in plain sight. Obama’s contempt for Romney gleamed through as Mitt got all O.C.D. with Candy Crowley about the rules, and rambled on about his weird retro worldview, where women in binders have to bound home to make dinner, where the problem of too-easy access to assault weapons could be helped if, gosh, we just tell “our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone.”
The problem is that Romney doesn’t really care about governing, he cares about being elected. I envision him winning, turning domestic policy over to Ryan and foreign policy over to Paul Wolfowitz or someone of his ilk and then spending his days at one of the various Eastern, Western, Mid-Western, Mid-Eastern White Houses he’ll have to have. One with a ring where Ann can use her service animal, the Horse who shall not be named, who will be taken care of at taxpayer expense because, after all, the Horse is a service animal. You know, I still people with service animals like Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs and Ferrets kind of odd…(Meet Jake, my Service Animal Python?) But, a horse? After all, he’ll need to visit the Mormon Tabernacle frequently to be applauded; he’ll need to ride up and down in the elevator so he can exercise his cars in California and then there’s boating in New Hampshire and petting his money at Bain Capital. The dude will be busy.
Now, Maureen Dowd points out that Obama really isn’t that interested in politics; the things you have to do to get elected or re-elected either irritate him or amuse him wryly. He’s interested in actually governing; and, he has problems with people who think they are entitled to office because of their royal status (Bush, Republican Royalty: McCain, Navy Royalty; Romney, Mormon Royalty.) Being very much an actual self-made man, he doesn’t get the idea of having power solely to do what, exactly.
There’s a famous quote from Jack Kennedy about a formal dinner at the White House for the American Nobel Winners. Now, JFK appears to have actually enjoyed the social aspects of politics and the give and take of what you need to do to get elected as well as govern. He was friends with people like Barry Goldwater; he liked going to state dinners; his sense of humor was generally directed at himself or at the pretensions surrounding him, the White House or personalities. In his speech to honor the laureates, Kennedy said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together in the White House -- with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." Same sensibility, different attitude toward the process that got him there. He appreciated the irony but reveled in it. Consider these other quotes:
"Those of you who regard my profession of political life with distain should remember that it made it possible for me to move from being an obscure lieutenant in the United States Navy to Commander-in-Chief in fourteen years with very little technical competence."
"Politics is an astonishing profession. It has enabled me to go from being an obscure member of the junior varsity at Harvard to being an honorary member of the Football Hall of Fame."
If President Obama had really wanted to nail this, he would have quoted another JFK line continuously since taking office and finding out what a debacle he had inherited. "When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we'd been saying they were." (May 27, 1961)
Now, the interesting thing is that should the undesirable unthinkable happen and we wake on the morning of the day after election to find Jackbooted Mormon Missionaries parading through the streets demanding our allegiance be demonstrated by listening to them preach, taking a copy of their book, and letting them do our dishes and wash our windows, things will be a lot better than Romney, Ryan et al have been claiming. The economy could be better—Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz and hell, Martin Wolff over at The Economic Times and anyone with half a brain can explain why. But, my dad was very clear with me 35 years ago or so when he said, “Nothing happens in the economy until somebody buys something…” Car elevators aren’t quite the same as 35 people buying cars; a $500 dollar bottle of wine is not the same as 80 people each buying a $5 bottle of wine. Keynes explained this, and it continues to ring through. Get a lot of people buying lots of stuff, that will increase demand which will increase jobs while business works to fill inventory. As there is more money flowing from more sources, there will be more innovation in things like logistics, design, efficiency and effectiveness. (Different things, by the way. It’s most efficient to put 100 kids in a classroom with one teacher – it just isn’t effective at all. ) If the demand is for luxury good, there is no multiplier. Well, unless the Romney-class is buying Ford Focuses and Sharp TV sets at an exponentially greater rate than they are buy Bugattis and factories in China, giving more money to the rich will in fact depress the economy futher.
The main point, however, is that the Romney team is willfully, nakedly, distorting the record, leading Ms. Reinhart and Mr. Rogoff — who aren’t affiliated with either campaign — to protest against “gross misinterpretations of the facts.” And this should worry you.Look, economics isn’t as much of a science as we’d like. But when there’s overwhelming evidence for an economic proposition — as there is for the proposition that financial-crisis recessions are different — we have the right to expect politicians and their advisers to respect that evidence. Otherwise, they’ll end up making policy based on fantasies rather than grappling with reality. And once politicians start refusing to acknowledge inconvenient facts, where does it stop? Why, the next thing you know Republicans will start rejecting the overwhelming evidence for man-made climate change. Oh, wait.
As Krugman has pointed out repeatedly, this is not rocket science, although rocket science would do a lot for an economy in Florida and Houston and Shelby Mississippi and California where there are a lot of out of work rocket scientists, engineers and blue collar folks. But, it is a variation from the Gospel of Reagan economics and therefore a lot of people will run screaming from the room that the idea is unclean. Barrack Obama doesn’t get this – he’s a rational man who may have lived a chaotic youth but has no affinity for chaos. He thinks rational people should work from agreed reality, not fantasy. In comparison to his clown-college opponents Obama wants to be a philosopher king. Well, the track record of philosopher kings isn’t all that great –Doing policy that is meaningful demands realizing that he’s a political entity and has to do the things he doesn’t like that seem unworthy of the office. Mitt Romney wants an ascension, not accepting that he’s not going to have any room to move and will be merely a ceremonial figurehead.
The news that there may be an agreement in principle for the Iranians to sit down directly with the US and negotiate the nuclear question is fascinating to me; Romney is a salesman, Obama is a Wilsonian figure. Romney will be all about the deal and any deal will be a great deal; Obama will want a deal but he’ll want a decent deal that’s reasonably fair to all the stakeholders. Certainly there are enough of them in the equation – if you’re in the same time zone as Iran, you’re invested in the outcome of those talks. Who gets the better deal – the guy who’ll be desperate to prove he’s worthy of being president and knows nothing about foreign affairs except for what John Bolton tells him; or the guy who channels Lincoln and selected his greatest rival to be secretary of State but is super-willing to assume good faith on the part of people who can’t spell it.. Of course, the White House now says that there will be no talks soon…I’m not sure that has any meaning anyway, given the glacial way in which US-Iran relations have staggered along since 1979.
The news that there’s been another mass shooting, this time in Wisconsin in a Spa is somewhat intriguing at this point despite being a run-of-the mill domestic violence case gone even further off the tracks. Obama has never, to my knowledge claimed to have anything to do with guns as an individual; Romney has claimed to be a life-long hunter shooting “varmints.” Of course, this example of wanton murder and excess is undoubtedly due to…what, exactly? Violent video games? Birth control? Abortion? Poor childhood nutrition? Lack of social services? Jobs? Depression? Fear? Socialism? At the end of the day, there is no one explanation for evil, but my guess is that abortion and birth control issues are pretty remotely connected, unless the guy shot up a Planned Parenthood office. But one thing that I do know is that if guns are less available, it will be harder for OCD people to fixate on them because they’ll be harder to get. In this case, it turns out the guy had a restraining order filed by his wife, was under orders to stay away from her and to not possess firearms. Yet, there he was. Certainly in Scott Walker’s beloved Wisconsin there are enough laws to control domestic violence and it has to be the fault of the unions somehow, right? No. Not enough cops, not enough controls and too easy to get guns. Be interesting to know where he got the gun – guns show at a church; from someone at a parking lot? His mother?