I read the Wall Street Journal. I subscribe. I've been a subscriber for about twenty years.
When I first subscribed to the WSJ I did it to improve my business acumen. People were talking about the Dow Jones Industrials, and I had no idea what they were, what the DJIA was, or what the NASDAQ was. The stock market was a mystery to me. Eventually, the company I worked for (Intel) gave me stock options and I had no idea what they were, only that they could net me some money if I did the right things with them.
So I bought a book called How to Read the Wall Street Journal. A better title would be The Economy for Dummies. From that book I learned how to read stock quotes, what stock was, and what the prices meant. What a P/E ratio was. What the strike price on an options contract meant.
The Wall Street Journal is one of the finest sources of business news in America. There are others, (like Barron's) but the WSJ is the go-to paper in a colloquial sense. If you want to know about free enterprise in America and the state of the world economy, it's an incredible source of unbiased information.
It was only much later in life that I began to read the WSJ Opinion page. For those who follow such things, to say the WSJ has a right-leaning slant is to call the Hoover Dam an extreme case of beavering.
Last week the opinion editor of the WSJ defended himself against charges made by a European newspaper that the WSJ supported the rise of fascism in America. The editor did not refute the charges, but said, rather, the next time Europe breeds a fascist government it should look to someone else's army to obliterate them.
Last week, the opinion editor of the WSJ lambasted a senior Republican leader for dropping support for Supreme Court nominee Alito by saying that senator had no credibility because he had lost the support of several influential talk show hosts.
Last week in the pages of the WSJ opinion section a WSJ editor suggested that the discovery of and removal of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq were never the true context for the invasion, but that the U.S. establishment of a "beachhead" in the middle east always was -- and the American public should not feel misled by its government for not giving this reason up front. We need to "get over it" because we can't deal with the truth.
I read this newspaper every day. It infuriates me, which gets my heart pumping better than a couple cups of coffee.
After I am done being angry I feel concerned. And I realize that in trying to be unbiased about this situation I'm being disingenuous. I am a moderate, truly. Probably, I'm slightly more to the left than the right, but as I have said in the past, I do frequently vote the republican ticket.
I wonder if this is how right-wingers felt when Clinton got his now infamous blow job and people felt he ran slipshod over the integrity of the office of the presidency. Because it seems to me what's happening now on a large scale is that everyone is getting the moral equivalent of a blow job and redefining the word "is". Having a president with no command of the English language say to a group about the Constitution he swore to protect at two inaugurations -- "it's just a piece of paper" -- feels about as significant as sexual misconduct, or at least as serious as those who would say the American flag is just a piece of cloth.
I suppose both sides have their day in the sun, and their days under the hot lights. We dole out power to politicians who are not always the brightest bulbs in the box. Politics is a popularity contest. We give power to people who don't always have the best judgment, education, or intent, and some of these people run slipshod over the rules we set out for them by committing such crimes as bribery and influence peddling and sexual misconduct and international conflict.
The price of gas is down from its highs of over $3 per gallon here in California. I'm paying about $0.80 less per gallon -- a huge drop. What caused this drop after the spike? One presumes the administration in the White House did. Now we can make the case that the President's colleagues in the oil business didn't want to sink their party by wrecking the world economy the way Enron did to California in 2000. They were grubbing profit, plain and simple, at the expense of American consumers. They relented. And in the end the result is good for Americans. And -- it denies Al Qaida one of their key demands of fuel prices in America at parity with the rest of the world. In any case, it's good for the Owl family economy. Low gas prices get my support.
But let's think about this. Five years ago, being happy about gas prices of $2.50/gal would have been impossible. We were paying a dollar less than that. How is it we can be happy about $2.50 today, when we couldn't in 2000?
Five years ago would the support of a television talk show host weigh against the credibility of a senator of the United States?
Today the WSJ came out in favor of torturing prisoners of war. They deride Senator John McCain, a man who himself was imprisoned and tortured. They suggest that we have been disingenuous as a people, and that those who oppose torture are self-serving Pollyannas unwilling to face what's necessary to do to operate in today's dangerous world.
If the WSJ had printed that a year ago, half their subscribers would have cancelled.
What makes supporting torture acceptable today, when it wasn't anywhere in our minds three years ago? What makes gas prices of $2.50/gallon a breath of fresh air? I've heard plenty of my friends suggest that getting blow jobs in the oval office is no big deal. Would Eisenhower have thought that?
What would Ike have thought about Iraq -- about establishing a beachhead in the middle east by working off unverified information?
When I was a kid my father taught me that boys didn't hit girls, ever. When I was outsized by Yvette Pickett and she clocked me in the street in front of my house, and I hit her back -- even though she was four inches taller than me, I got grounded. Why? Because that was our family ethic. We didn't violate it because a larger girl whacked me on the playground.
When I got older I learned how to behave safely around firearms. At the age of 18 I owned my own 9mm semiautomatic handgun. I owned rifles. These were in my bedroom, complete with ammunition.
God forbid I should ever have taken one of those guns from its locked cabinet and cleaned it in a crowded room in a way that the barrel of a completely field-stripped, totally inert weapon, crossed the body of a human being -- my father would have decked me. The thought of bringing a gun to school and killing the people who pissed me off was so far from my daily stream of thoughts I could have sat down for years and never conceived of anything like the Columbine massacre.
Yet today, what teacher or police officer would condone a father giving his son such firepower, irrespective of the boy's temperament?
What has changed in all of us that has made us so fearful and so less human? We had previously endured world wars and police actions and fear of nuclear holocaust. Fear is nothing new.
Yet it was not American policy to torture the Nazis we captured sixty years ago, nor the North Koreans, nor the North Vietnamese, nor the Navajo nor the British in 1776.
What is robbing us of our humanity? Because to me, the idea that the United States tortures its prisoners to gain information, irrespective of the value to the security of the nation, leads us down the same path as the murderers at Columbine. A step away from the global equivalent of the ethic, "boys don't hit girls," normalizes what was once unacceptable. What was once unthinkable, becomes necessary. Then all boys become potential murderers. Torture and imprisonment of anyone is what "must be done in a dangerous world" to protect a false sense of security.
People who know torture is not beyond the will of the government learn to live in fear of the government. Silencing the naysayers, as Pat Robertson suggests, is such a small step after that. Then, as the brave man said, one morning you wake up, and they come for you.
It really is exactly like that for me. Reading the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal I knew I would write this essay, and I know that should the people who justify torture persist in their destruction of American ideals and morality, that one day they will come for me for writing this.