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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
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August Musings

Comment

Whatever happened to manners? Recently, my wife and I were two of the guests at a dinner party for eight in the home of friends. Two of the other guests were, by Washington standards, VIPs, of the kind who have their own assigned parking spaces or are guests on the Sunday talk shows.

I was amazed that during the evening these two VIPs did not go more than three minutes without checking for e-mails, news items or texting on their handheld BlackBerrys. Neither made any real effort to conceal what he was doing; it was almost a boast of their self-importance.

Maybe, I'm being too harsh. Maybe such individuals cannot help themselves in their addiction to their wireless handheld computers. Perhaps technology, like alcohol, turns out to be a good servant but a terrible master.

Over the last year and a half — when things have been so bad that Snow White was forced to lay off three of the dwarves — it's fair to say that economic forecasting has given a new respectability to astrology.

The rosy reports that the recession is nearing a welcome end raises two worries: First, when will we get back to the good old days? Second, what if these are the good old days?

Your memory is still working if you can remember when Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman was a Democrat and when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a Republican, and if you can recall when American banks were in the business of giving loans instead of getting them.

Which is the most politically corrupt of our 50 states? The finalists have usually included Illinois, Louisiana, maybe, New York and West Virginia.

The recent federal indictments of dozens of mayors, public officials and rabbis on bribery and money laundering establishes New Jersey as No. 1 in the race to the bottom. Not simply because of the volume of indictments and resignations, but because, while most ethically-challenged political figures in other jurisdictions stick unimaginatively to the selling of liquor licenses or zoning variances or asphalt contracts, only in the Garden State would public corruption include illegal trafficking in black-market kidneys.

In spite of the terrible economic times, we still have an unwelcome surplus of restaurant waiters who must be members of the Hapsburg royal family; they are just keeping themselves bored until they receive official notice of their rightful restoration to the throne.

You know the type with the studied sneer, which suggests that there must be something odoriferous on the sole of your shoe.

Save yourself some time by ignoring all the endless articles on the urgent importance of any health care reform plan being "bipartisan." It would be nice if both Republicans and Democrats locked arms and supported the same reform bill, but we Americans, being committed pragmatists, care infinitely more about the product than we do about the process that produced it.

You know the debate is getting sterile when the same politicians, who decry and denigrate as un-American any "government-run" health care plan, in the very next paragraph swear their loyalty to protecting and preserving Medicare, which, of course, is a "government-run" health care plan.

Just about 25 years ago, too many Democrats sought to dismiss Ronald Reagan by calling him a "great communicator." Then they were actually disparaging American voters by implying that those voters had been seduced by a "smooth" messenger, that the message — what Mr. Reagan actually said — somehow did not matter. That was not true, since an awful lot of voters liked Reagan's message.

The same is true today. Yes, just like Reagan, Barack Obama is a "great communicator," but voters both hear and like Mr. Obama's message as well.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

COPYRIGHT 2009 MARK SHIELDS



Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
Yup, we're past compromise on heath care. We've given it the old college try, but so far we've miserably failed that particular test of how well we've done in "learning to be kind," as per the old phrase that describes what progress toward civilization means. Last night I heard an interview with Bill Gates Senior, the great lawyer, business maven, and philanthropist, waxing poetic on how we have basically "fixed" racial discrimination here in the U.S. because of an inherent good nature we sport that eventually wins out over our less admirable traits. I found my self wincing at the notion that the problem has been fixed, but it sure is true that after the 60's, we were on a whole new level that clearly could not be viewed as anything but a sea change in the way things had been before. In these times, we can hardly conceive of living with racial discrimination of the type that existed before then. And guess what: We didn't do it with friendly debate. We did it with federal troops and brave men and women like Martin Luther King and many, many civil rights workers in the south who put their lives on the line, eventually to make that ultimate sacrifice. We may be looking now at a somewhat similar situation with health care, although the battle lines will be drawn in far more subtle tones than black and white. It will come down to dethroning privilege, equalizing access, and avoiding fiscal suicide, and as far as I'm concerned, if federal troops are what it takes to get the job done, so be it. These issues may be more sophisticated than those that confronted us from the color-coded road map of the 60's, but the fix, which certainly is not the tangled ball of confusion being proffered now, must be every bit as decisive as the blow we struck for civilization way back then. It can only be some genuine version of single payer, as the rest of the civilized world knows. The Democrats haven't delivered much of anything real since the 60's, and it really is time. So far we are failing miserably, even with such a wonderful victory as the election of President Obama.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Masako
Sat Aug 8, 2009 9:05 AM
Sir;...If anyone were to have dinner for eight around here they would eat off of paper plates, and would be struck by how well the plastic silverware matched...And they would get a good meal...My advice to all, especially those vexed by snooty waiters and waitresses is to marry a good cook...I thought I could cook, at least as badly as most restaraunts...I figured out the American spices of life: Fat, Sugar, and Salt...But now I would rather drink hemlock than eat any other cooking but my wife's...Even my own mother's cooking does not so well suit me...My mother is still way ahead on pies, but only because my wife does not do pies....And yet, this is not my point... I don't care what I eat on as long as there is something good to eat, and the problem for too long in this land is getting worse as we wait, that too many are wanting for food, and that many are hungry, or malnutritioned... How do you think it feels for the poor to see that so many who do have food, and every other necessity care nothing for the wants and suffering of the poor??? How does it feel for the rich to deny the notion of commonwealth, and general welfare??? If the fractures dividing this people break fully open to never more be mended no one can blame the powerless poor... What control have they ever had in their lives??? They are fish who begin the journey up stream only to end in the fateful jaws of a bear...But are we no better in this age of science than the former victims of fate, laying their lambs on the altar, and bowing low before the holocaust??? We cannot bribe God to look our way, and want to blame the sinners for the disregard of God... We need look no further than ourselves...Each person is God or Demon to his fellow man... We can howl after the teratoma of vengeance...We can deny to our fellows the necessity of life, as medical care is, or sell him into slavery as did the brothers of Joseph... This is not the path to nation.... The unity for which our constitution was written eludes us... We are a nest of thieves without rest, suffering our envy and avarice, and coveting all the more our neighbor's goods... You know the facts that face us as well as I...We cannot get the good we desire so long as we deny good to others... We cannot get half good any more than we can get half moral... We cannot demand perfection of others as the price of their inclusion at the table of life when so few of us are even fair, or good...We will never build a nation, a commonwealth, or even a working republic with every person watching his own back... We have only one Alma Mater in this land, which like the church always keeps a light on for the wayward...Only liberty and justice for all provide us some common gravity, holding all good people to a common course...Thanks....Sweeney
Comment: #2
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Aug 8, 2009 9:29 AM
Re: Masako;...Sir, the power of the Othman Turks began its decline with the Sultanate of the Harem, when the most powerful son was denied the ability to kill his younger brother and have complete authority... It may seem a barbaric custom, but when the brothers of the Sultan were killed, the people breathed easier knowing they were spared the curse of civil war... Party politics is the equivalent of cold civil war... What is done, and what can be done must be accepted by both parites, or what the day shift does the night shift will undo.... It does not matter, really... Parties have captured our government.... We must fear for social security as we must fear for voting rights and even the most basic services of government... It is because of the fact, that while we have the acts of government they are worth no more than the willingness of the government to fund them, and we cannot have both the rich in flocks and justice for all deprived of their wealth...Give us health care reform, but if government cannot control the many who profit from pain and illness, or who profit by denying treatment as a right, then health care is dead... There are two ways to kill the beast, and one is straight forward, and the others is more devious... We could all have great coverage, and prompt professional service... Or the thing could be made into a bureaucratic nightmare that in the end does not deliver services in an effective manor...This last option is the only option the rich will accept, the status quo ante.... No more will mothers and fathers sit for hours in uncomfortable chairs in stuffy waiting rooms in the middle of the night with screaming babies suffering ear infections while the broke hospital figures out who will pay... Now, people will not suffer more, but will not suffer less, which has been the history of this country: that all the blessings of plenty, and of increased technology have not improved the condition of most Americans a lick...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Aug 9, 2009 7:45 AM
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