Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't Just Stand There

When the massive “bailout plan” was being rammed through Congress in a frantic, panicked scramble to save America from Armageddon, I plaintively asked, as did others far more knowledgeable than me, “Is this the only possible solution, and is it even the right solution?”

Well, the “free market” has given us the answer to that question, a resounding “Hell no.”

Over Paulson’s objections, a clause was put into the bill to allow the Fed to inject capital into the banks in return for partial ownership, a plan that he adamantly said would not work. Britain has now adopted that plan and strong consensus is building very rapidly here that we’d better do the same. I don’t know who insisted on that clause in the bill, but I’m glad they did.

Reactions to this crisis are interesting, to say the least. I like the way my wife deals with it. “I’m just going to go to work every day until election day. Then I’m going to vote for Obama. Then I’m going to go back to going to work every day.” Sounds like a plan.

McCain’s plan is, in the words of a movie president, “make you afraid of it and tell you who to blame for it.” He and his “female Sancho Panza” are on the campaign trail whipping crowds into a frenzy of hatred and anger by talking about terrorist connections and middle names, and by asking scary questions about origins. Presidential campaigns have never been pretty, but inciting to riot is maybe going one step too far.

Obama is playing the blame game more than I’d like to see him doing, but he is a really canny campaigner. Anyone who can campaign against and beat the Clintons does not need advice from me. He sort of reminds me of Will Smith in Men In Black. “Just chill, I’m on this.” That’s kind of the attitude I want in my leadership.

When things went to shit on my submarine at 400 feet beneath the surface, I did not want my skipper running around screaming and throwing shit against the bulkheads. I kind of needed to be able to look over and see that he was cool. When he was cool it reassured me that we might do what a submarine can do that a surface ship cannot do when submerged, which is go back up to the surface.

(Any ship can dive, you know. Only a submarine can do so repeatedly.)

Regardless of what the right move is, the chances of doing the right thing while in panic mode is vanishingly small. Panic mode is “fight or flight” mode; you either beat something up or you run like hell, what you specifically do not do is think. All of your body chemistry is organized against thinking to facilitate a faster reaction for either fighting or fleeing.
But in a crisis like this one, thinking is precisely what is needed.

The Navy does indeed have the saying that goes, “Don’t just stand there, do something.” The corollary to that is, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”

Sometimes “standing there” is the right thing; if you’re thinking.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:45 PM

    my first thought was "diesel-electrics dive 400 ft?.." I checked and the WWII boats test depth was 300 ft, and post war boats were able to go considerably deeper. My apologies, sir.. PS. I remember taking a tour with you on a boat as a kid. More history and narrative off-line would be nice to hear from you.

    And yes, I agree with you that thinking first and not in panic mode is very much the thing to do. And O is a lot better at this than Mc.. and one of the primary reasons I prefer O over Mc is that coolness,analytical thinking mode. And the stress on 'no drama'.

    FDR said "do something.." (as opposed to paralysis), and if it doesn't work, acknowledge it and move on to something else. That's okay, especially the acknowledge part, but some pre-action analyssi would be good too.

    bailing out the financial sector is perhaps one way to go, but there a re many facets to the "meltdown", and this is not the oly solution or maybe eve the preferred one. There are other efactors that need to be considered and allowed for.

    Mc's bail the homeowners is a political ploy, plain and simple. Or a bail McCain, perhaps. I just hope that the $700B package does some good instead of a wipeout.

    And yeah.. go to work.. vote .. go to works.. be prudent with personal finances (my addition). Good for Ms Kathy, I wish more would be like her (and Jayhawk).