Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Wife's Cat Had More Foreign Policy Experience Than Sarah Palin

Those who know me know that the following story is true. Some years ago my wife worked and lived three doors down from the home of the Russian Consul General in San Francisco. She had a cat then named Bessie who liked to roam the neighborhood. From time to time my wife noticed that Bessie started coming home smelling of expensive perfume and a nice fire. Well my wife was busy then and was glad that Bessie with socializing with the neighbors. Then my wife noticed Bessie was definitely gaining weight. My wife wondered who was being so nice to Bessie? She was a chef then for a wealthy family and one day Bessie came home with a distinct smell around her whiskers that she recognized: caviar. She mentioned to several neighbors her suspicion that Bessie was visiting the Russians and getting acquainted. Sure enough, two or three times, Bessie was seen slipping through the front door as though she were an expected guest.

Eventually my wife moved on to another job (she'd been working six days a week and said enough of that). Alas, for many years, Bessie thought she was something of a queen. She was a talkative cat and we wondered sometimes what she talked about with the Russians.

By the way, the nearest Russian consulate to Alaska is in Seattle. So much for Sarah Palin's absurd notion of foreign policy experience.

In recent days, the nonsense and posturing of the McCain campaign may have much to do with the fiasco of picking Sarah Palin. A candidate's first presidential decision is the choice of a vice president. McCain has obviously failed and appears to be bent on changing the subject by sabotaging the bailout with more demands for more deregulation.

Here's the latest on the negotiations from Politico:
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson came up to the Capitol hours later to revive talks, but House Republicans did not participate, and Democrats warned that the whole process could collapse unless President Bush gets them to come to the table.

“Unless this fourth leg shows up at some point, this could fall off very quickly,” said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).

At the White House, in fact, House Minority Leader John Boehner had bluntly warned about the lack of Republican support for the massive government intervention: “I can’t invent votes,” Boehner said. But House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) angrily accused the minority of trying to undercut Paulson by crafting a late-breaking alternative proposal—with the tacit support, Frank said, of Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Yes, indeed, the Republican drama queen showed up at the last moment. Mr. Deregulator himself. He of the Keating Five (remember the meltdown of the S&Ls?).

Hilzoy of The Washington Monthly links to several stories. Here's a snippet she quotes from The New York Times:
Mr. Boehner pressed an alternative that involved a smaller role for the government, and Mr. McCain, whose support of the deal is critical if fellow Republicans are to sign on, declined to take a stand.

The talks broke up in angry recriminations, according to accounts provided by a participant and others who were briefed on the session, and were followed by dueling press conferences and interviews rife with partisan finger-pointing.

In the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr. literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to "blow it up" by withdrawing her party's support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

"I didn't know you were Catholic," Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson's kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: 'It's not me blowing this up, it's the Republicans."

Mr. Paulson sighed. "I know. I know.""

Shakespearean tragedy or comedy? It's hard to say. After eight years, Bush has destroyed his credibility. Other Republicans, particularly those in the House, have almost no credibility but these are the same guys who voted with Bush 90% of the time, particularly when Bush was asking for more power. Hamlet or Falstaff? MacBeth or Caliban? Beats me. The real motives of professional liars is difficult to divine. Notice the cute role that John Boehner plays. Boehner replaced the Duke of Hastert who replaced Gingrich the Grinch. Actually, Gingrich might be behind some of the nonsense: see The American Conservative:
...McCain’s stunt has been predictable (right down to Gingrich’s Romneyesque call for a “workout, not a bailout”), and it says a great deal about what these people think constitutes leadership: opportunism, trying to hog the credit for other people’s work and, above all, a mindless dedication to taking action. No doubt, if these were what made for great leaders McCain would be the new Augustus.

Laughably, Gingrich likens this to Eisenhower’s “I will go to Korea,” but unlike Eisenhower and the Korean war McCain has no credibility concerning the crisis he is supposedly addressing. In the end, knowing when you can contribute something and knowing when to avoid complicating an already difficult situation by intruding on ongoing negotiations is what separates grandstanding from leadership. It is what separates the simple egomaniacs from the ambitious pols who nonetheless have some idea what public service is. McCain’s belief that he is indispensable in a time of crisis is the surest sign that he is unfit for any office in republican government, much less the chief magistracy of the Republic.

That's a conservative speaking. Gingrich, no doubt, would love for McCain to win so Palin could be moved aside to make room for Gingrich himself, Cheney-style. Of such plots do these deceivers dream.

The Dow went up almost 200 points on Thursday. That may have been the stock market trying to recover on its own or it may have been a reaction to the belief that a deal was near. Tonight, the bad news: here's the Times again:
Washington Mutual, the giant lender that came to symbolize the excesses of the mortgage boom, was seized by federal regulators on Thursday night, in what is by far the largest bank failure in American history.

Regulators simultaneously brokered an emergency sale of virtually all of Washington Mutual, the nation’s largest savings and loan, to JPMorgan Chase for $1.9 billion, averting another potentially huge taxpayer bill for the rescue of a failing institution.

We are in a crisis that has been in the making since Ronald Reagan became president. Instead of seizing the future and facing the growing problems that face us, too many American politicians, mostly Republicans, mostly right-wing conservatives, chose the easy road of greed, corruption and business as usual. And too many Americans went along with them. With one exception, things have gotten increasingly worse year by year. That exception, and it was a mild one, was the Clinton Administration. For six of those years, opportunities were lost because of the recklessness of people like Newt Gingrich.

I have mixed feelings about the bailout. I think there might be better solutions. The main thing that worries me about the bailout is the feeling that it's based on the notion that housing prices will bounce back. I don't think so, not without inflation, and that is no way to go. We need leadership. John McCain cannot provide that leadership. Barack Obama is the better man. But Obama has made a point that is frequently overlooked. If there is to be change, the leadership has to come from the American people. And that leadership is going to require an honest evaluation of our predicament and an openness to new ideas and new ways of doing things. Because of the late hour, it may not be enough. But it will be what's necessary to come out on the other side.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Imagine a city where people are complaining about drunkenness on Skid Row. So for a "remedy" the mayor has the police chief send two squad cars down there — armed with a few cases of Midnight Express to hand out to the drunks.

That's perverse, of course. But it's a perfect analogy for radical-conservative House Republicans' so-called plan for fixing the financial industry crisis by applying more deregulation and free-market principles. And, their mischief is all the more perverse for the fact they waited until a real deal was almost settled on before springing it.

I've long maintained House Republicans are the lowest form of legislative life in the country. This is just the latest example supporting my conclusion.

Newt Gingrich is the personification of a House Republican: arrogant, ignorant, duplicitous, selfish, self-aggrandizing, nauseatingly ambitious and proudly perverse. Oh, and let's not forget hypocritical to the nth degree.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

BTW, Craig, being a cat person I loved the cat story. If there are people in the neighborhood nice enough and discerning enough to appreciate the company of a cat, a smart cat will find them. Especially so if those neighbors make nice with tasty treats.

Relying as they do on body language, vibes and instinct, a foreign accent or different language presents no problem for sociable cats. Caviar handouts transcend any need for palaver.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - caviar? Good for Bessie! And from the Russkies, better yet. But as to us, that is the US, McCain, Obama, and the bailout, it all looks pretty gray to me now, the more I look. I'd say good for Pelosi, being quick enough on her feet (with the supplicant before her, on his knees...) to retort she didn't know him to have been a Catholic.

BUT. I disagree that the Clinton years were a time of things being better or not as bad. I get it that Clinton went for plenty that has helped ease us into the very tight spot we're in now. I'm afraid NAFTA and some other stuff has backfired big time. It's headache stuff for sure.

But even if Obama wins I doubt things will change much at all. The underlying - ah - fundamentals are the same on both sides of the aisle and the inertia is huge on every front. Of course we'll see but if I were going to bet I'd have to bet on McCain, actually. Not what I'd like, but what I'd bet for now.

See Bill Moyers' interview with Andrew Bacevich on the 26th (Bill Moyers' Journal - can get it free on iTunes). Not pretty.

Maybe I center on these things and in this way because I feel so low at times. Or maybe I feel pretty low when I look around and this is what I see. Or maybe it's all about something else altogether. I don't know.

Palin IS a zero for certain. Not a 'cipher' unless you take that word to include the null value. I read the phrase 'high functioning moron' on the blogs. Not bad, not bad at all. But even so, we've (that is, 'they' have) got momentum, like a large vehicle that's lost it on a curve on an icy winter day. Watch out. I think the American people ARE stupid, or more like it, struck dumb by the simple greed of wanting the next iPod more than they'd be willing to wait it out until lots of things settle into place, like the next paycheck. I think to my geology days and that kind of thing, no matter what was in the bank, wanting something and waiting. And waiting.

Or trips across the Valley to the mountains, stopping on a warm day in Oakdale to buy gas - it was always the cheapest in the state there for some reason - and waiting my turn behind someone in a huge, high, crew-cab 4WD pickup with enormous knobby tires towing a huge, fast boat with twin outboards. And pumping, and pumping, pumping the gas - 60, 75, 90 gallons, all to go out on one of the reservoirs behind any of the huge dams in the foothills to roar around until all that got burned up. Then go back home and hit the job Monday. The school secretary and her hubby in Tracy would be typical, both obese, driving a pair of said overgrown all-wheel go-karts. Man. No wonder. No wonder lots of stuff. And I can take umbrage here? I mean, when the neighbor parks his 'Smart' at right angles to the curb and slightly sticks out into the driving lane so I need to maneuver past on my bicycle. But I'll take that, any day. What is going on in the US instead is that no matter what anybody is saying out loud the hidden agenda is the same for all: I want to keep what I've got and add to it, as much and as soon as possible. If I have to walk away from my mortgage to do that, so what. I know, I know, there are those who are on the street as a result but you know, I suspect more have managed to sneak away and stay afloat, even if marginally. It's a parlous time. Then again, is it really going south? Who knows?

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

S.W., thanks for the comments. You've been doing great work over at Oh!Pinion and I hope more people keep coming to your site.

I suspect many of the people Gingrich and his crowd recruited are still in the House with the same useless nonsense they've had all these years.

I don't know the answers to the bailout except Krugman supports the Democratic version despite reservations and a belief that if Paulson and Bernanke had their heads on straight, they would have worked out something more rational. It's not the best bill. But you're right, the House Republicans had absolutely no clue and McCain seemed to be siding with them. Ouch.

Anonymous, thanks for your comments and the email. Bessie always knew how to arrange a good deal for herself. I wish I had half her skill! As for your comments, your skepticism is understandable but I all can say is that the stakes are very high. If there's a way through, I personally intend to keep looking for it.

10:03 PM  

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