Monday, October 27, 2008

A New "New Deal"?

I heard a piece on NPR today that described Franklin D. Roosevelt's run against Hoover in 1932. Public sentiment was so sour on republicans that virtually anyone calling himself (not herself) a democrat would have been a shoo-in for election. Consequently, Roosevelt didn't have to outline much in the way of his policy preferences during the campaign. In fact, the term "New Deal" was coined in his very last speech and the contents of the "deal" were not specified. Could this be the Obama strategy? We've not heard much detail from him, either.

So, what have we heard from Obama? His health care plan...his education plan...his energy plan...his economic plan. All pretty simple, plain vanilla, clearly "not Bush's failed plan". But the devil really is in the details. Will Obama come out slugging, democrat congress in tow, with some big ideas? Maybe. Maybe there will be a new "New Deal". But what will it be?

As the Trail Diary has been bemoaning for a long time, the United States of America is facing some really major challenges. We've got structural issues of immense proportions - giant unfunded liabilities, millions of poorly educated younger adults and children, an aging population with expectations of unlimited health care, and billions of dollars daily being sent overseas to purchase stuff we burn up. And now, horror of horrors, we need to address these issues in the midst of an economic calamity. Poor Obama!

Perhaps now is the time to turn over some really big stones, to put the cards on the table for America to look at and choose. There is no win, win, win, win solution. We're facing the age-old problem of resource allocation, guns or butter. Perhaps there are a few magic bullets, like priming the economy by building a new energy infrastructure or mobilizing an army of unemployed oldsters to tutor the young. But, there must be some big give-ups, too. And that's the rub.

Here are a few questions for your consideration. Can some public pensions and benefits be almost as outrageous as outsize Wall Street salaries? Should wealthy people get hefty medical and social security benefits? Is it really appropriate to warehouse oldsters with severe Alzheimers or dementia, treat their every medical condition with modern medicine, and watch them sit, listless and semi-comatose, for years until something big finally kills them? Should managers of large public companies be compensated like owners, even though they own little of the firms they manage? Are the laws covering personal injury and corporate liability overly tilted toward the plaintiffs, many of whom failed to exercise good judgement?

I'm hoping Obama wins "big-time", but I'm expecting him to live up to his promises for change. I want change that goes past shoveling out goodies to the poor and middle class, because doing only those things will bankrupt our country. I want structural change that will benefit our country for a century. I want a president who has the guts to lay it out, step by step, and push change through, problem by problem. If Obama can do that, he'll go on the same pedestal as Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt II. Go for it, Barack!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Did McCain Throw in the Towel?

Things have gone so badly lately for the McCain campaign that I can't but help wonder if the choice of Sarah Palin was the first sign that McCain wanted to lose this election and was going to make sure he did. Did the rigors of the campaign tell his inner muse that being president was maybe not the best idea after all? Or is he just that dumb? I don't think so.

It's not only Palin. What about the plan for the government to buy people's mortgages and then refinance them at a lesser amount and a lower interest rate? McCain expects republicans to accept this totally socialistic idea that is so over-the-top that even Obama rejects it out of hand? Not. It's just another way to make sure this election is not close.

Granted, with the economy in the tank and going south and the wars unresolved, it's hard for a republican to argue that the party deserves much support in 2008. But, with a top-flight vice president, some tough conservative rhetoric, and a few good economic planks, McCain might have had had a fighting chance to win. Seems like he took care of that problem...

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Magic of the Military

Testosterone! It's one of the things that separate us guys from you girls. Evolution gave us this hormone so that we'll be aggressive about getting what we want, especially the woman of our choice.

I'd be the last to deny that aggressiveness has its plusses and minuses. Many men are challenged to curb their enthusiasm for pushing and shoving, both physically and verbally. But our aggressiveness and macho-ism often push us to take on important challenges and assume risks that a low-testosterone person might logically decline. Like the buck in rut, we at times think only of the objective and minimize the hazards as we singlemindedly pursue our goal.

Young men, peaking in their hormone production, need good outlets for their propensity for aggressiveness and risk-taking. Like the young buck, they need the supervision of older, more experienced and powerful males to channel their energies into constructive activities. That's one reason why I think the military is a really good thing.

My youngest grandson, Michael, is halfway through Marine basic training at Camp Pendleton, California. He's a really smart 19 year old, a saxophonist, and a typically uncertain and often lazy young man. Colleges wanted him, but he was not ready for them. So he joined the Marines.

We've had two letters from Michael. The first, written after three weeks of training, began "I hate basic!" The second, written after six weeks, began "I love basic!" He's already taken on and overcome the challenges of several ordeals, like swimming a distance in his uniform and boots. The Marines are forcing him to look inside himself and understand that his abilities are far greater than he comprehends. They are channelling his testosterone.

Before too long Michael and his buddies will be conditioned to fight together effectively and even savagely. Hopefully, that will be a skill he'll never have to employ (go, Obama!). But for the rest of his life he'll likely be a stand-up guy, someone who will take on life with gusto and do what his gut tells him is important. The era of the introverted, lazy kid is over for him. His testosterone is being channelled.

Some may worry that Michael will become a trained killer. I was once one of those, but the training eventually taught me to respect life rather than discount it. Having your own life in jeopardy or having to face taking the life of another forces thoughtful people to seriously contemplate life's value. I trust that Michael will come to realize, at some point of revelation, that life is precious and that taking it without just cause is a great sin.

Young men need good outlets for the drive that testosterone engenders. Here at Pittsford Ambulance, where I'm writing this post, many young men ride the ambulance for adventure and the opportunity to do something challenging and important. Michael has chosen to experience the magic of the military, which often turns older male children into effective adults. OO-RAH, Michael!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's Landslide Time

What an interesting week! First, Obama gets endorsements from the Chicago Tribune, then the LA Times and the Denver Post. Two old-time, big-time conservative newspapers going for a liberal, mixed-race, young senator! Then the coup de gras - Colin Powell comes out for Obama. McCain's candidacy is becoming a smudge on the history of U.S. politics, where it belongs.

It seems like even Joe Sixpack is getting the idea that we need a younger, steady, communicative, intelligent leader as president, not an older, combative, willy-nilly "maverick" who's had a silver spoon in his mouth except for five years in a North Vietnam prison. And Joe also knows its time for Sarah Palin to return to the job she might be minimally qualified for.

In my view, Obama is not the choice because McCain is so bad. In fact, he's not a bad guy...he would just make a poor president because he's not too smart or up-to-date, and his world view is dated. Obama is the choice because he is a person of high accomplishment and high morals, and because he understands complexity both at home and abroad.

America is not the simple place that many conservatives believe it is; it is really a melting-pot society with looming problems that, if not addressed promptly, will make it a poor and weak nation compared to its place in the world over the last 100 years. America needs a president who will work hard to help Americans understand where we are, where we need to go, and what each of us can do to get us back on track. We also need a president who can go in front of the world and start convincing them that America is on the right side of global progress, not a barrier to it. Obama is that man.

It would be great if Obama could begin his presidency on the heels of a landslide vote in his favor, without any doubt about the overwhelming support of the country. We don't need a disloyal opposition carping about "voter fraud", or "more states went red than blue", or "Obama got elected by blacks", or any other distraction. We need him to have a mandate, and we need a congress that will work with him rather than obstruct him. We need to trust our government to roll up its sleeves and do the hard work of really fixing America instead of simply being a platform for two warring parties to trade insults.

Today the end is clearly in sight. I'm hoping for a national celebration on November 5th!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hello, Again

I've been away for a few days. Not physically away, but unable to concentrate on any particular topic. Life has been crazy and scary, stressful at such a level that even a warrior-type as I became pretty bent out of shape. It's nice to be back. Here's a retrospective of the past two weeks.

My IRA, which is my primary source of funds for living, has been hemorrhaging even though I thought it was pretty conservative. Ouch! I've stopped checking the balance.

All my non-profit bookkeeping jobs, both volunteer and semi-paid, had a September 30 closing to deal with. Lots of conputer screens and bank reconciliations!

Early one morning I had a vasovagal attack where my blood pressure and pulse plummeted, I began to sweat like being in a shower, and I got dizzy and tingled all over. It went away after awhile but scared the heck out of me and the Good Witch. Stress, I suppose.

I got sent to a cardiologist by my primary care doc, who didn't like my ekg. My blood pressure was too high, so the cardiologist gave me some minimal meds for that. Then I waited a week to take a stress echo-cardiogram...a week of anticipating the worst. Yesterday the stress ekg showed my heart was perfect and very strong for someone my age. What a relief!

Last Saturday afternoon I responded to an ambulance call and treated a lady who had just given birth in the car. She and the baby were fine, and her hubby - the driver - did a great job under duress!

This morning I answered an ambulance call and found a younger man who had fallen and passed away as a result.

Good Witch is romping on me to slow down. Maybe life can be just a bit too exciting. Time to hit the gym and transfer some of that stress into cardio and muscle-building. I'll worry about the IRA later.

At least McCain/Palin are self-destructing. See, a silver lining in an otherwise dark couple of weeks!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

It's Ugly Time!

Here we go! Direct from CNN this evening:

"Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin slammed Sen. Barack Obama's political relationship with a former anti-war radical on Saturday, accusing him of associating "with terrorists who targeted their own country." Palin's comment delivered on the McCain campaign's announcement that it would step up attacks on the Democratic presidential candidate."

Remember when both candidates committed themselves to running clean campaigns? We had a few moments of hope that this election would be fought on issues. Sorry, folks. We're headed for a month of mud-slinging, at least from the republicans who sense that this election is heading south for them.

The nice thing about Palin's claim is that it's true. Obama has had a relationship with a semi-repentant terrorist from the 1960's, a man who has re-integrated with Chicago society and apparently done some good things. Obama can't deny this relationship, nor can he explain it in a few words. It will be interesting to see how Obama and Biden handle this mud, mud that's been around for awhile but is now being given another shot.

Will we be treated by Joe Biden to some juicy tidbits about Palin? Will some particularly juicy McCain anecdotes hit the airwaves in October? One thing's sure - once the gloves are off, there will be blood on the floor. November 5th will be a bitter day for a lot of people, regardless of how this election turns. If the election had been contested on issues, the losing side might find some equanimity. But when ugliness characterizes the fight, bitterness is the sure outcome. Such a pity!