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Blowin’ Like a Circle ‘Round My Skull

It is altogether a good thing that we have abandoned certain terms formerly used to describe persons who, through accident of birth or subsequent injury, suffer from mental delays or disabilities. Understanding, compassion and every assistance society can provide is due such individuals. Often they surprise us as they prove able to do more with less than we would have assumed possible in those times when they were observed, measured, classified and forgotten. And, having adopted a more decent, humane language for innocent victims of circumstance or God's perverse fancy, we are thus freed to apply the no longer used classification system to our public servants.

For instance, take President Bush. Please. There has been much discussion concerning his degree of impairment and the causes of it. Clearly, his years of drug abuse and intoxication have reduced him; his halting, slurred speech, blinking incomprehension and goofy smirk suggest the loss of much higher-order cognition. But, then, his family situation cannot be discounted. His father is none-too-bright, his brothers likewise. One brother, a crooked banker, is a criminal (we leave aside in today's brief investigation, the evidence condemning George W. as a war criminal). Genetically, he, as the saying goes around here, "ain't much." And how much of his disability may we attribute to being raised in a home with a weak, ineffectual father and Godzilla's big sister for a mother? Who can know? These things are complicated, to be sure.

Googling George Bush together with each of the three old terms reveals a puzzle. Google discovers the following number of references for our President: Idiot: 2,340,000; Imbecile: 122,000; Moron: 1,020,000. Curiously, people apparently feel he is either at the high or the low end of the less-than-average intelligence spectrum (IQ 50-69 or IQ below 20), with few placing him in the middling-imbecile range (IQ 20-49). The second-lowest number of Google hits lands him, in fact, in what I think is his most likely slot, Dull Normal (IQ-70-80) , where he receives 142,000 references.

Clinical descriptions aside, Google weights Mr. Bush's personality: Fool, 1,900,000; Clown, 819,000, Jerk, 860,000. Socially, culturally, politically, we find he is an Embarrassment 587,000 times. Interesting. And material for much discussion and perhaps many fascinating essays. But I do not come here today to discuss George Bush.

After all, he is only one man, however stupid, and however much a mistake it was to put him in charge of our country. More baffling, and more ludicrous, is the behavior of the millions of persons and tens of thousands of institutions who have chosen to put their excess cash into the stock market. You will not have missed the excitements of the past few weeks as investment banks have crumpled and folded like cheap lawn chairs under a fat man's fundament; nor the drama surrounding Congress's casting toward the titans of Wall Street nearly a trillion dollars of money we do not have and will be able to secure only by bleeding our children. Some members of the House of Representatives voted against this egregious welfare boondoggle apparently on principle a week ago, but within a few days many such objections evaporated as the bailout bill was "sweetened", as they say in the compliant press. The additions to the original bill might be more properly described as fat, greasy, gristly, lardy, rancid pork. Essential to our collective economic well-being, apparently, are:

Sec. 503. Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children

Sec. 317. Seven-year cost recovery period for motorsports racing track facility

Sec. 308. Increase in limit on cover over of rum excise tax to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

Sec. 504. Income averaging for amounts received in connection with the Exxon Valdez litigation

Sec 502. Provisions related to film and television productions

Sec. 325. Extension and modification of duty suspension on wool products; wool research fund; wool duty refunds

Sec. 309. Extension of economic development credit for American Samoa

Sec. 201. Inclusion of cellulosic biofuel in bonus depreciation for biomass ethanol plant property

Sec. 211 Transportation fringe benefit to bicycle commuters

So you can see, as so many members of both houses and both parties and most newspapers and all television networks assured us, we "had to do something", we "had to act now." It was imperative that we pass this giant, poorly-understood, hastily-concocted bill to "calm jittery investors" and "restore confidence in the Market." So mid-day Friday last, the Market that we worship and fear and that makes us both wealthy and jittery, was up by about two hundred and fifty points. Upon hearing that Congress had done as its moneyed masters directed, the Market immediately lost those gains and dropped a hundred and fifty points further. Monday morning Europe and Asia panicked. Monday the Dow-Jones shed another three hundred, sixty-nine points. I Thank God Tom Allen and Olympia Snow and Susan Collins pledged their support for this fragile and beautiful creature in my name.

But why would I expect rationality from either stock speculators or Congresspersons? The former are flighty, unstable types, given to wild passions and profound fears, eager to buy into untested schemes and quick to lose faith in the system they profess to love and understand if it "fails to meet expectations." The latter live to line their own pockets, help their friends, secure re-election funds, position themselves for appointment to corporate boards upon retirement, and issue press releases calculated to mislead the victims of their malfeasance. It was in fact Democrats, the party of the people, rather than Republicans, the party of wealth and privilege, who most eagerly championed this "Rescue" effort.

No, my friends assure me, it is to the top we must look for leadership. A new President is in order. Sure, George Bush was an inspiration for many years, and we are still grateful to him for giving us two expensive and interminable wars, and for easing a bit of the onerous tax burden on billionaires, but we tire of him. We will vote in record numbers next month to elect either John McCain (more tax cuts for the rich), or more likely Barack Obama (more war in Afghanistan and, if they don't shape up PDQ, Pakistan). Surely that will change things.

Really? After the bailout bill failed (both candidates voting in favor of it) and before it passed (both again in the affirmative), each candidate proposed his own "sweetener" to make it more palatable. Apparently they came up with this brilliant idea independently of each other. This amendment, they said, was designed to do something "for families."

"Families", it seems, have been worried that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation only guarantees bank deposit accounts up to a hundred thousand dollars. Both candidates advocated raising the cap to a quarter million. Now, there are seven or eight banks in Damariscotta, Maine. Any of them would be pleased to have me deposit a hundred thousand dollars with them. Other members of my family could spread their hundreds of thousands across several accounts in as many institutions. I was unaware that so many of my neighbors had so many accounts in excess of a hundred grand that their money was not adequately protected.

But this is not the first time I have misread the public mood. I have foolishly spent my income on food and housing and transportation, rather than squirreling away so many hundreds of thousands of dollars that the banks cannot hold it all. My neighbors have apparently been more prudent, and they will be "reassured", they will have their "confidence restored" in knowing that they can now receive insurance protection for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars per account, thanks to the concern and attention and wisdom of candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.

Idiots. Imbeciles Morons. You decide. Then, by all means, vote if it makes you happy, if it makes you proud, if it restores your confidence.

At the close of books Wednesday evening, correspondent Cooper had on deposit in his account at Damariscotta Bank & Trust Company a little over sixteen hundred dollars, although fifteen hundred of that is reserved toward his twenty-eight hundred dollar property tax bill, so he is not as well fixed as a glance at the raw numbers might suggest. But this sum is about as close as he has gotten in nearly sixty years of life to testing the hundred thousand dollar cap on FDIC protection, so he remains comfortable and not jittery. He in fact confesses some measure of glee at watching the venerated Market teach its accolytes some sharp lessons. Send him such investment advice as you like.

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