Winners And Losers And General George Patton

As President Obama and congressional leaders work feverishly to negotiate an end to the debt ceiling impasse, I am sure most Americans are keeping our fingers crossed that the parties reach a meaningful agreement that allows the country to avoid a ruinous default and credit rating downgrade.

If a deal is struck, news media pundits will promptly declare who came out a “winner” and who came out a “loser” in this torturous process.  They may contend that President Obama was a loser because his call for increased taxes as part of a “balanced” approach was unsuccessful.  They may argue that the Republicans were losers because they were maneuvered into a last-second backroom deal that doesn’t make enough spending cuts.  Or perhaps the mantra will be that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats were marginalized during the final hours, or that “Tea Party” Republicans looked too uncompromising and unrealistic, or that progressives in Congress have lost their clout as the debate focuses totally on spending cuts.

The insistence on declaring triumphal winners and abject losers, with no middle ground, may be one reason why it has become so difficult for Washington to reach agreements.  No one wants to be a “loser” because they know that General George Patton was right:  Americans celebrate winners and despise losers.  In this case, however, it’s hard to see how anyone comes out of this ridiculous process covered with glory.  Our political leaders have failed to govern responsibly for so long, irrespective of which party has been in power, that there should be plenty of “loser” status to go around.

Update:  As predicted (except this writer finds a lot of “winners” in the process).

Queen City Quaffing

Last night, after a fine reception to celebrate Will and Megan’s wedding, some of us decided to head out to sample Cincinnati night life on a sultry Saturday evening.

Boy, The Queen City was rocking! The Reds had just beaten the Giants, so the departing game crowd was mixed with the normal weekend partiers and people in town for some kind of musical festival on Fountain Square. The area around the Square was thick with revellers looking for some fun.

We ended up sitting outside at a place called the Cadillac Ranch, listening to electronic dance music pulse from the speakers and watching the crowds and roaring choppers cruise by outside and drunken thrill-seekers try to ride a mechanical bull inside. The place was jammed, the atmosphere was hopping, and the beer was cold and tasted good in the warm summer air. When we left sometime shortly after midnight, it looked like things were just getting started.

Living On The Air In Cincinnati

What’s a trip to Cincinnati without a visit to Fountain Square, and what’s a visit to Fountain Square without thinking of the theme song to the classic sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, and Andy, Les Nessman, Herb, Jennifer, Dr. Johnny Fever, the hapless Mr. Carlson — and the timeless flying turkey promotion episode.

“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

Cousins, Together Again

We’re in Cincinnati for our first family wedding in years.  Today our nephew Will Kishman is marrying his long-time sweetheart Megan.

The great thing about a family wedding, of course, is the chance to see people you haven’t seen in a very long time.  The Kishman clan is far-flung these days, with outposts stretching from Brooklyn, New York to Ohio to Louisville to Chicago to sunny California.

Last night was a night for reconnecting for the cousins, as we quaffed some adult beverages and visited a dueling piano bar. It was great to spend some time with Will, Matt, Andrew, Annie, Max, and Miles.

Revisiting A Hot Topic

We need some good news, and NASA has provided some on on the “global warming” front.

The good news comes from data gathered by NASA satellites, which have evaluated the release of heat by the Earth’s atmosphere into space.  The data, from 2000 through 2011, indicates that far more energy was released — and therefore far less heat was trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere — than the dire predictions of United Nations computer models.  One of the principal U.S. scientists on the project said the satellite observations “suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” and that “[t]here is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”  If science works as it should, the real-world data should lead to revisions in the computer models and consequent reductions in predictions for temperature change.

The world as we know occasionally seems like it is going to hell, but it is at least reassuring to learn that predictions that we are going to reach Hades-like temperatures in the near future apparently are misplaced.

401(k) Follies

Many of us have tried to save and plan for retirement.  We’ve read the books about how investing in mutual funds is one of the best ways to maximize your return and grow your nest egg over the long term.  We’ve followed that advice, and many of us have stayed the course, through up years and down, trusting in the historical fact that the stock market will produce long-term gains that outstrip every other investment vehicle.

As I sit here tonight, amazed that President Obama and congressional leaders have taken us to the brink of apparent default, I wonder:  If the debt ceiling is not increased, if the United States defaults, and if ratings agencies downgrade the investment value of United States government securities — with the likely negative ripple effect of those developments throughout the economy — does anyone doubt that the stock market will plunge and our carefully considered long-term investments are going to take a huge, unnecessary hit?  And if that inevitable hit occurs, how long will it take for our retirement funds to recover from it — if ever?

I think the dumb brinksmanship we are seeing from every one of our political leaders right now is infuriating, but I cannot imagine how angered I would feel if I were on the eve of retirement and saw those leaders taking absurd risks with the value of my hard-earned, soon-to-be-needed retirement nest egg.  It’s one thing to believe that our elected representatives are unconcerned about the average schmoe, it’s quite another to see that they are gambling with your money and your future solely to further their partisan political positions.

Speaking Of Fair Food And Doughnuts . . . .

How serendipitous!  Right after writing about fair food and America’s love of doughnuts, I see a news item that combines the two.

This year’s New York State Fair will be serving up the Big Kahuna Donut Burger.  This quarter-pound burger is served between slices of a grilled glazed doughnut.   With cheese, bacon, and the fixin’s, The Big Kahuna Donut Burger comes out to about 1,500 calories:  a true, over-the-top gutbuster.  What will they think of next?  Couldn’t they have worked a deep-fried Snickers bar into the mix somehow?

I’d like to see someone slug down a Big Kahuna Donut Burger and then take a spin on the Tilt-a-Whirl — at least, I’d like to see it from a safe distance.