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So I’m waiting for someone to come up wth a convincing reason for me to care that not one House Republican voted for the economic stimulus bill this week.

Given the circumstances, it was practically a free vote and serves mostly as a Clinton-like refrain circa 1994: We’re still relevant. Take us seriously

The Senate is going to work its magic on the bill. It probably will look very little like the one that passed the House. So House members will have another chance to squawk — and another few weeks of doom-and-gloom economic news to condition them.

Barack Obama is  most likely not quaking in his boots over the power of the House GOP to stifle his agenda. They obviously can’t. It’s big of him to make nice, but I’m sure he or his advisers understand the politics driving House members. It’s the Senate they have to worry about.

They may even have anticipated a party-line “no.” I haven’ t heard anyone in the White House complaining (not that I have an ear anywhere near that hallowed ground).

How can we forget the many token “no”votes cast against the bank bailout? It died, then it came back to life so we could beat it up again over how ineffective it’s been. If you wanted to conjure up fresh proof that government spending doesn’t seem to work, you would have done the same.

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There’s this notion going around that tough times will reveal the true character of America. It’s a good bit of marketing and satisfies our desire for myth. But it’s baloney.

When you’re backed up against a wall, you learn one thing: people have a keen sense of survival and a knack for self-preservation. It’s those other times that show us what we’re made of, like those times everyone thought they could get rich buying and selling tech stocks  houses  oil futures hope?

I guess Bush will take the blame from a lot of people. But whatever else he did, he didn’t force anyone to take on a mortgage they couldn’t afford.

But didn’t he and his cronies create the climate that made all those criminal excesses possible? I suppose they might bear some responsibility, but people have to take their share of the blame occassionally.

We get the leaders that serve up what we want to believe, and we very badly wanted to believe in everlasting wealth.

It doesn’t mean we still can’t become Treasury Secretary some day, even if it means a come-down in pay.

It continues to intrigue me — the biblical point Obama raised in his inauguration speech on putting away childish things.

He seems to mean things like partisanship and political gamesmanship and their attendant ills, with self-righteousness and ideological rigor mortis being two of the biggest.

But those things are decidedly not childish. They are the sole province of adults (and adolescents, I might add). Name me a child who sticks to a course of action, no matter how foolish, based on some abstract philosophical notion.

Children may fixate on something and carry on like fools, but it’s generally over a concrete object, say a chocolate chip cookie, a Matchbox car or a pair of footie pajamas. I don’t see them crying over failed adherence to free-market principles or skepticism over Keynesian economics.

I guess it sounds clever to compare peculiarly adult blind spots to childish things. But it doesn’t do much to advance our political discourse when we seek to infantilize people based on what they may feel are important principles.

Or when we seek to explain away what is decidedly an adult problem as some sort of childishness that needs to be abandoned. Good luck with that.

Obama gave a great speech yesterday and I especially enjoyed his call to put away childish things (I hope he wasn’t referring to McDonald’s milkshakes).

However, only when this country grapples directly with pollution (of which global warming is but one symptom) will I believe we are serious about the future.

It’s a given that we fret about the economy and the wars we’re fighting (gee that looks like fun!). We wring our hands and issue dire predictions, but our ability to fix problems is hemmed in by a meek imagination that wants nothing more than to restore things to how they were.

Like they were in our childhood perhaps. When no one worried about the fumes drifting from a tailpipe or the clouds billowing from a power plant.

We patch and re-patch the holes. Do we dare seize the power to build a new roof? Polls have not been encouraging.

It’s easy to say we’ll miss W. after he’s gone. It’s harder to say why, however, without resorting to cliches. Here’s a feeble effort:

* We’ll miss having an obvious, high-profile target for our political self-righteousness. The comedians will survive  W’s passing. But what about the everyday blowhard writing letters to the editor?

* We’ll miss the air of superiority we felt in believing ourselves smarter than the man in the oval office. No one feels that way about Obama, at least not yet. Quite the opposite. People are placing great faith in his intellectual ability to get the country out of its current jam.

People at least knew where they stood with Bush, either with him or against him. Maybe it’s for the best that we melt the polarizing style of contemporary politics. And maybe we really are prepared to give Obama time.

But patience is a virtue best left untested. While it may be the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, our attention spans may be at their shortest since, oh, Moses shattered the ten commandments in anger at an unfaithful people.

If Circuit City can’t make it, what hope is there for the rest of us? Well, at least I might get a good deal on a wireless mouse and a new wristpad for my keyboard. The old one is coming unglued (as you can see below, it looks like a blue mystery-meat hoagie).

pad

What’s good for the consumer these days might not be so good tomorrow. I keep hearing about how bad this economy is (the worst since the Great Depression?) , and it’s a cliche that a recession is when a neighbor is out of work and you have to write about it, a depression is when you are out of work. But I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

Maybe it’s because I work from home and have no one to talk to to stoke my fears. Or maybe it’s because people in general err to the positive or the negative, and the muddlesome truth is impossible to tease out.

All I know is a lot of people are losing their jobs with little prospect of getting a new one. I doubt their bank accounts will carry them through whatever’s coming. They can sell off assets, but the more people go that route, the less they’ll earn. More supply, lower prices. At least newspapers might see a small uptick in classified sales. Good luck collecting payment.

Someone should study winning bids on ebay to see if the average is up, down or unchanged. Yes, it’s a lot of apples to oranges, but still. There must be some method that could cut through the madness. Reading this makes me wonder what other statistical nuggets ebay might be able to cough up, if pressed.

Thus, the question. Do I buy a new wristpad or wrap duct tape around what I have? Or should I spare the duct tape to repair a more valuable asset down the road before posting it on ebay?

I usually complain about healthcare, so let me report a positive experience with the system. It’s rather an unlikely one, considering it inv0lves a New Year’s Eve visit to the ER at a hospital in West Philadephia with a crying toddler. But there you have it.

We were staying with my aunt, who lives near Broad Street in South Philly. Around 6:30pm, I was swinging our younger son, Jack (19 mos. old), by his arms when I heard a pop, kind of like the crack your knuckles make but with more bass. I put him down and he started to cry. I picked him up and eventually figured out his left arm was the source of his pain. Any poke or movement made him cry more. He was just letting it hang. I feared I had dislocated his shoulder.

So off we went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP, which is near Franklin Field. I pulled up to the ER and dropped off Jack and my wife. By the time I parked the car and made it back — I took no more than 10 minutes — they were already in triage.

The nurse finished taking his blood pressure — and making him cry more by sealing him in one of those hospital ID wristbands — and told us to wait. Which we did for about 5 minutes. At which point, a nurse came out to bring us back to an exam room.

The docs came and then within 30 minutes, Jack’s arm was back to normal. A simple snap back into place was all it took. Within five seconds he was using his arm as if nothing at all had happened. Turns out he had nursemaid’s elbow, a fairly common thing in toddlers.

We were back at my Aunt’s house within 90 minutes of leaving. Let’s hope the bill is as pleasant as the visit. The doctors said there’s usually a several-hours wait in the ER. So, if you must take your child to a hospital, do it on New Year’s Eve.

So I’ve been reading a lot lately about the pain of independent gas stations and how they’re struggling with falling fuel prices.  It seems they haven’t been buying gas often enough to mark down their prices as quickly as their chain competitors.

Funny, but I don’t recall independent gas stations raising their prices more slowly than their chain counterparts. In fact, I remember them following rising prices lockstep.

Seems to me, if independents were buying gas as often then as they are now (i.e,, not as often as their bigger rivals) they would have been stuck with lower-priced gas. Thus, they could have raised their prices more slowly and undercut the competition, albeit at the expense of higher profits.

If you recall that happening, let me know. I could be wrong, as most mom-and-pop gas stations in York County, PA are gone — I can think of only two).

It’s easy to work up sympathy, but the effort shouldn’t cloud logic. If they were smart, independent-station owners have some extra cash left over from the days of skyrocketing prices (credit-card fees notwithstanding).

Or, like Wall Street titans, they thought “up” was the only direction prices could go.