The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
It’s the morning after the great and flat debate (yawn), but I interrupt this blog to note that I just read that actor Paul Newman died at the age of 83 on Friday of cancer.
I think the first time I ever saw him on screen was in “The Hustler” in 1961. I had just recently reached the age of puberty and I was at the movie theater in the old downtown of Yuba City, Ca. I went to the show by myself and saw this incredible black and white movie – and I interrupt myself here again to note that once when my granddaughter was younger she was watching TV and asked, “why is it (a movie, not The Hustler) in black and white?” Well, I don’t know why they chose to shoot The Hustler in black and white, but then again I know that it would not have had the effect if it was in color. And I don’t even know if it was considered a great movie. But both Jackie Gleason playing legendary pool player Minnesota Fats and Newman playing a young hot shot hustler “Fast Eddie” Felson were at their best.
Newman had his boyish good looks (nearly all his life) but he also had what great actors all have, that certain something that made him unique, otherwise he’d just be another pretty face (and I hope I’m not sounding gay here – hey, I have a wife, two children and two grandchildren). And he could really get into character, method acting, I think they call it.
Gleason of course was a comedian primarily, but a natural-born actor, who you got the impression just automatically went into a roll without effort – he certainly did so in The Hustler, with only a few short lines, a puff or two on a cigarette and gestures.
Fast Eddie was addicted to gambling via pool, and booze and would forsake all, even his girl friend, for it.
But a great thing about Mr. Newman, the real person, is that unlike many in his trade, he stayed with his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, since 1958. They had acted together in the movie “The Long Hot Summer.”
….. I’m still reading debate reactions (I gave my own immediate reaction as soon as the debate was over in my last blog). And I’m trying to scan the web to see what the polls suggest as to the outcome. So far I get the sense that it was, as I initially concluded, a draw. But if you were for Obama going in, you may have felt he won and if you were a McCain partisan, you probably thought he won (in my immediate reaction blog I gave the edge to McCain and I’m definitely not a McCain partisan, just different I guess). I think the Wall Street Journal concluded McCain won on foreign policy and Obama on domestic policy. Although I definitely favor Obama, I don’t think he gave a knock out performance (one thing I read was that McCain was too mean, and Obama too nice).
And I think one of the problems is the debate formats they use nowadays. It’s been so long since I have seen what I would consider a real debate – seems like the last one I saw was William F. Buckley vs. I don’t know who on whether we should give up the Panama Canal (we did under Carter).
Correct me if I’m wrong, but in a debate, shouldn’t both contestants be given a topic and then each one presents his case, with each getting a rebuttal (with the moderator’s only function being to begin and end it and make sure rules are followed)? I think that gives the listener a more coherent and complete message and forces the debater to lay out a case and support it with evidence. Some might think that unfair because it might give a polished debater an advantage. But I suggest that if you are running for President of the United States, you don’t have to be a silver tongued orator, but you ought to have to be able to give a full explanation of your position and be able to support it. There was far too much bickering back and forth between the two on semantics more than anything, or on whether one or the other voted on some version of a bill. The multi-multi question back and forth and back and forth method to me is too confusing and lacks focus and serious discussion. And this is serious.
We’re not looking for details here candidates; we want your broad policy outlook, even though of course you may have to make some references to individual actions to state your case.
I’ll move on – maybe I’ll do a full day after or two-day after debate review later (or not).
…I’m reading that the powers that be are still hoping to get some version of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill into law or all-but into law over this weekend. And I have read in a couple of places where people have reminded the public that it was not just Wall Street who got carried away but anyone who is over-extended on their credit or who went into a mortgage and should have realized they had no ability to keep it up. It all adds to the mound of bad debts that have clogged our financial system. I still say just cancel everyone’s debt and let us start over again – but then I suppose that would make everything worthless, I don’t know.
As little as I know about economics, I have written a lot this past week or so. I have noticed that nearly a week after we were told the world would come to an end if congress did not pass Bush’s bailout with no strings attached for Wall Street everything is still standing, okay a couple of banks have gone under. I still say, take it a step at a time and along the way let’s revamp the system, not perpetuate the problem.
For some strange reason, business people, who often or usually consider themselves conservative, have over these past many decades pushed folks to charge things up on credit cards and the real estate industry, abetted by Wall Street financiers, and yes Democratic (and Republican, I think) politicians pushed for everyone to get in on home ownership and either dropped qualifications or looked the other way as to the probability that folks could really pay back their mortgages.
The old timers were right. They shied away from credit and saved back, putting their money out at interest, knowing that better a lender than a borrower be (although someone has to borrow for someone to lend).
And the inflation in housing caused by easy credit hurt renters too. They have to pay high rents for landlords who don’t own property free and clear and may be behind on their own payments and property taxes.
I’m so far out of my league in economics that probably no one would want to pay attention to me, but I think there is something to be said for a cash society. In capitalism, there does need to be capital, and in order for there to be capital (at least the kind with any liquidity), there needs to be savings so financial institutions can take those savings and lend them out at interest. If there is caution and careful rules, such as requiring sufficient reserves, things can work out fine.
And now I’m really getting in too deep. But I think that for the most part capital should be used to invest in things such as the production of food and durable goods, and the provision of services, all of which, along with jobs created in the process, make up our quality of life. But when you reduce the whole thing to some type of gambling game in which you just borrow money and lend it out and then turn around and borrow money on the money you lent out and so on, that can lead to too much wealth in too few hands and a reduction in the quality of life for the nation as a whole. I know that some of the financial trading has the utility purpose of I think they call it adding liquidity to the market. There has to be safeguards, though, in order to prevent the near catastrophe we are told we are facing.
I apologize or beg forgiveness to anyone who has read this far and understands this whole thing far better than I and feels he or she has just suffered a fool. But don’t get too haughty, I think I get it better than you may realize.