OUT OF THIN AIR

I have a couple of mostly dormant brokerage accounts. In the past – before I went to grad school – I traded moderately actively, albeit on a small scale as befitted my income. Since I no longer have the time to devote to proper research (and buying stocks without that is essentially throwing money away) I don't do it much anymore. Over the summer I was able to give it a bit of attention, and in August I was able to execute a couple of trades that returned about a 50% profit in 2-3 weeks.

Lacking great amounts of capital, any transaction I could make in The Market is totally, almost unfathomably inconsequential. With literal trillions of dollars being moved around electronically on a daily basis, the dollar amount I bring to bear on the world financial markets is less than a spit in an ocean. I don't even register.

That said, I've found over time that my tolerance for the absurdity of the whole enterprise is in decline. Every time I make a profitable transaction now, I can't stop thinking, "Why do I have more money now? I didn't do anything." And I didn't. Nobody who plays this game does. It is a world in which nothing is produced and destroyed except money itself. One day you buy something for x dollars. The next, you sell it for 1.5x. Your personal profit is money created out of thin air.

And this, on a much larger scale, is the dominant profession of our financial (and social, and political) elite. They create ever more complex financial instruments out of other intangible financial assets and then they sell them to one another and everyone walks away with money even though nothing happened. The old saying about the stock markets being a form of liar's poker is a lie inasmuch as poker is a more legitimate enterprise. Real money changes hands between real people performing a transaction with a payout agreed upon in advance.

These people – our Producers, our Galtian heroes, our Job Creators – are people who don't actually make, create, or produce anything. It's all blips and clicks and algorithms and trades programmed to self-execute when defined parameters are met. It takes knowledge and a specific talent to do this successfully; that is indisputable. Regardless, I can never wrap my mind around how…intrinsically worthless are the "assets" involved in this game. The only thing that the hedge fund manager or the day trader creates is personal wealth. He buys something, sells it to someone else for more than he paid for it, and the buyer attempts to repeat the process. It's not a zero sum game. Inflation? Hell, the game of buying low and selling high can, in theory, continue indefinitely.

If it did, it still wouldn't create anything except personal profits. This brings us to familiar territory, to the cornerstone of the New Economy: servicing the personal consumption of the financial elite. They might not "create jobs" in the direct, tangible sense that the robber barons did, but think of all the peons needed in the service industry to tend to their mighty needs! Every time Chad from Harvard Business School makes a killing, another hotel chambermaid on St. Maarten is born. Another personal assistant rises from the Earth. Behold the mighty act of creation! Our economy is indeed a thing of splendor.

It should come as no surprise that an economy firmly rooted in nothingness has high levels of poverty and unemployment. The very rich and the very poor have in common that they do nothing. They simply are compensated differently for it.

TRAINED SEALS

Recently I wasted tens of minutes of my life reading and excoriating the ramblings of some absolute nobody named Suzanne Venker, who appeared to be trying to parlay a guest column on FoxNews.com into as much attention as possible. May I quote myself?

There is ample money to be made Uncle Tomming in the conservative media; there's no quicker way to a book deal, columnist gig, or TV appearances than to be something other than a white male. Flap-jowled white guys are 90% of the intended audience, and they love nothing more than being able to feel like they are totally not sexist/racist because, look, a woman/black person just said it! Thomas Sowell says there's nothing racist about George Zimmerman! Ann Coulter says women are responsible for getting raped! See? It's totally OK for us to say it if they can say it.

The Indianapolis Star has granted a weekly column to some other contenders in Venker's arena, "Chicks on the Right." They will now have a dedicated audience (beyond the local radio show they've already snagged) to which they can serve heaps of twaddle with titles like "This Is What Real Feminism Looks Like". It will surprise you to discover that Real Feminism looks shockingly similar to right wing talking points. You'd be hard pressed to distinguish anything here from the average syndicated right wing columnist or a transcript from any call-in radio show.

One of my friends who rarely says anything political in a public forum posted the following on Facebook after a couple of friends attempted to engage the "Chicks on the Right" on some of their grosser misrepresentations of reality:

Nothing like reading a bunch of middle aged women trying to cut down your friends for making valid arguments against their grossly misinformed ideas of what feminism is. I generally shy away from confrontation because it makes me incredibly anxious and uncomfortable, and it's reading things like the Chicks on the Right's comments that make me wish I was much better at voicing myself in the face of confrontation. I saw plenty of people outraged at these two bullies' comments on their page sparked by their horrible little column in the Indy Star today, and two of my friends who were inclined to voice their opposition directly to the duo were responded with name calling and flippant dismissal of their opinions mostly due to their "liberal" viewpoints, their ages, and even discarding one well-written response just because the author was a man. It was a childish display of how ignorance will always defend itself with more ignorance.

I guess all I really wanted to say in this is that these women have their like-minded followers who are so zealously guarding their viewpoints that we will never even begin to sway their gaze. They've blinded themselves so thoroughly that it is completely futile to try and mend their seeping corneas – the scar tissue of their hateful rhetoric won't allow it. They are passionately gripping on to a form of misogyny so tightly that to them it has morphed into a bastardized ideal they are trying to label as "new" feminism. Well, ladies and gentlemen, those of you who actually and proudly represent feminism and women's rights – we're the ones that matter, not these harpies (to use a word that they have used so – excuse the pun – liberally today to label women that just happen to think differently than they do). There are plenty of conservative women who are smart and stay informed and can still be compassionate when it comes to matters of women's rights because they can see past their own front yard and realize how hard it can be for some women in America just to get by. My mother is a shining example for me – she doesn't judge me for my youth and doesn't mock me for having different viewpoints than her. The women of Chicks on the Right give my mother and every woman like her a bad name and it's not fair. Our opinions are not worth less because we are young. We are not "lazy" and "entitled" "parasites" just because we think a certain way.

There is never a point to debating or questioning people like the "Chicks" because despite how much they talk, they have nothing to say. They're not going to debate ideas because they don't have any. Their goal is simply to get attention and parlay their existence into as many paydays as possible (they'll have a Fox News show by the end of the year). They're just a gimmick (check out their blog, if you dare) looking for attention and they know how to tell angry white people what they want to hear. Everyone who makes a living playing to this audience sounds exactly the same because it is only interested in hearing one message: You are the victim, and here are the targets at which your anger should be directed.

With the product/message so clearly defined, the only competition in this Marketplace is to show the boss how "edgy" or demographically appealing you are. Engage them in an argument? These people are trained seals, and they only know one trick. As it pays pretty well, they don't intend to deviate from it.

NEW NORMAL

Rolling Stone has a great piece on the new, ultraconservative state government in Kansas, from the legislature to the Governor's mansion. Don't worry, they're trying to fix it so that Brownback can appoint the judges himself, too. Two things that are particularly striking:

1. Though the author does not say so directly, this is where we see the real impact of Citizens United. The piece notes how mind-blowingly easy it is for Gov. Brownback to eliminate his political opposition, provided of course he remains in the good graces of his sponsors. 2012 showed us that throwing money into a presidential race – even an astronomical amount of money – has a marginal impact on the outcome because there are so many other factors at play in that race. Similarly, there is only so much a handful of loyal Koch-backed Senators can do in a body of 100. But in state legislative elections, the unlimited cash is decisive. In a race wherein both candidates might ordinarily spend a combined $50,000 it tends to be decisive when Koch Industries dumps a paltry (on their scale) $150,000 into the race. Most people don't even know who their state legislator is. Eighteen negative mailers in twenty days before a (low turnout) primary makes quite a difference. This is why we see so many state legislatures turning into circuses this year; with enough financial might, it really is possible to get just about any asshole elected to a state house. Comparatively, races for president, the Senate, or governor's mansions are hard to influence with similar brute force financial tactics.

2. The Lakoff argument has been fairly well beaten to death over the past decade. We know the benefits and limitations of "branding" and the use of purposive language to make a candidate or agenda more appealing. Personally, I think the GOP stranglehold on the agenda and discourse has loosened, if only a bit, since 2001. But there is one problem that refuses to go away:

"What bothers me is there are places in America that have gone so far to the left that they'd look at us as nutcases," he says pleasantly. "I consider us in Kansas mainstream America – normal, red-blooded Americans who believe in the Constitution of the United States. Yes, we're conservative, but we're not a bunch of gun-toting cowboys." A few moments later, he slides his chair back, and the wheel makes a loud cracking sound when it hits the plastic floor coaster. "That wasn't gunshots, by the way!" he cackles.

People on the left forever have to fight against this entrenched notion that mainstream America is an old, psychotically conservative white person / yeoman farmer. We see this still during elections, when the media frets endlessly over what working class whites and white rural people more generally think, despite the undeniable statistical evidence that 1) there aren't that many anymore and 2) they're an ever-shrinking portion of the electorate. It speaks to the larger obstacle wherein everything conservatives believe is normal, mainstream 'Murica and anything else is defined as the Other. Any competing argument is to be treated with skepticism and/or derision until it gets the OK from Real Americans – old, white ones.

FEEL THE SOUND. THE SOUND OF REAL AMERICA.

The Sounds of Real America are back.

Your response to the first three SORA prints was enthusiastic, so here are two more gems. If you ask me – and you did, obviously – these are even more amazing (read: bleak) than the original trio. Each print is 11"x14" on archival card stock, suitable for framing, wall mounting, or use as an improvised weapon. Only 20 of each design in the series will be available. To recap:

Fans of Gin and Tacos on Facebook are familiar with CAPSLOCK ED, a magical being who blog-only readers met briefly in Campaign of the Damned. He tends to post in series like "10 Things Grocery Stores Don't Want You to Know" (which was an actual "news" headline on CNN) and his latest bender is an ethnographic study of Americana called Sounds of Real America. It's a poignant study of the things one can only experience in the Real America, not in any fancy city or ivory tower university. It is the sound of the salt of the Earth living the simple life and experiencing things that only America can offer.

Reader / graphic designer Pauline Vassiliadis took it upon herself to surprise me with her visual interpretations of the SORA series. Being a fan of her talent and her appreciation for the absurd, my heart nearly exploded with joy when I saw the designs. I've decided to offer a small number of them to you, the readers. They combine my words with Pauline's aesthetic, capturing the essence of Real America in the process. Hang one of these babies on your wall to bring the magic of Muncie, IN or Macon, GA into your home.

SORA 1 and 5 are $40 each and $60 for the pair. Please get in touch with me (message the G&T Facebook page) if you're interested in these and you already purchased the first three – I'll cut you an even better deal on these two. BE THE FIRST KID ON YOUR BLOCK TO COLLECT ALL FIVE, AND THEN YOU WILL DEVELOP SPECIAL POWERS AND GET LAID.

SORA1





SORA 5





Use the button below to purchase both at the 2/$60 price.





TURN IT UP

I've sat on this too long for it to qualify as timely, but those of us on the top half of the planet might be interested to know that it's so goddamn hot in Australia that they had to make up new colors for their weather maps. I think purple represents "Somebody please kill me." Unsurprisingly, massive wildfires have followed.

aussie

Meanwhile, American winter weather is careening wildly back and forth between massive snowstorms and January tornado outbreaks. And while we have gone several months without a city being submerged, I think The Onion pretty much nailed this back in November with, "Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On."

Following Hurricane Sandy’s destructive tear through the Northeast this week, the nation’s 300 million citizens looked upon the trail of devastation and fully realized, for the first time, that this is just going to be something that happens from now on.

Gradually comprehending that this sort of thing is now just a fact of life, citizens all across America stared blankly at images of destroyed homes, major cities paralyzed by flooding, and ravaged communities covered in debris, and finally acknowledged that this, apparently, is now a regular part of the human experience.

“Oh, I see—this is just going to be how it is from here on out,” said New York City resident Brian Marcello, coming to terms with the fact that an immense storm that cripples mass transit systems and knocks out power for millions in the nation’s largest metropolitan area can no longer be regarded as an isolated, freak incident, and will henceforth be just a normal thing that happens.

You know, no big deal. We just kinda broke the planet. Move along. Let's learn more about Clean Coal or something.

WORDFLOW

The three posts this week have been pretty heavy in terms of content and length, and they have spawned some pretty extensive discussions so far. This is a rare occasion on which I have all of the time, energy, and material necessary to post but I will leave today effectively blank.

Lots of incoming traffic this week, so welcome. If you're new, feel free to Like Gin and Tacos on Facebook. As a bonus you can enjoy all the pithy shit I have to say throughout the day.

AMERICAN HISTORY, TEXAS TEABAGGER STYLE

I've been (slowly) compiling a "Texas Board of Education version of American History" post for the past two weeks. Not only did the rockstars over at We Are Respectable Negroes beat me to it, though, and they did such a good job with it that I have to concede. So for the first time in the 10 year history of this website, I am simply going to provide you with content from another source. I have nothing constructive to add to this masterpiece. Rather than blockquote all of this and make it more difficult to read, I'll point out once again that all of the following content is from WARN. Enjoy.

The Essential Dates and Events of U.S. History as Approved by the States of Arizona and Texas

1607– Jamestown founded. Capitalism, which can trace its roots to the Bible, is now firmly rooted in the New World.

1660-1800Triangular Atlantic trade continues to bring wealth and prosperity to America while giving opportunities to new immigrants.

1776–War for Independence against the tyrannical, evil British empire. Colonists suffer oppression that is unprecedented in human history. Minutemen singlehandedly defeat the evil British Empire in 1783.

1788–The United States Constitution is signed as a document to stand for all time, inspired by God, and never to be changed.

1803-1848–America continues to expand westward into empty territories. American settlers make the land bloom with the help of friendly Indian tribes.

1823–America guarantees the freedom of all countries and people in the Western Hemisphere with the adoption of the Monroe Doctrine.

1848–Mexico, in an act of friendship following their humiliation at the Alamo by the great Republic of Texas, gives their territories to the United States.

1860s-1900s–The Gilded Age of prosperity. American capitalism provides opportunities for all people to grow wealthy, secure, and happy. Liberals and Progressives begin working against American freedom and capitalism by forming unions, demanding unfair compensation from their employers, limiting the rights of children to work in factories, and imposing restrictive regulations for the “safety” of employees. Many brave men die fighting Communist influenced unions as they riot in America’s cities.

1861-1865–Civil War fought because of an overreaching, tyrannical federal government and its desire to limit the freedoms of all Americans. 620,000 people die including many brave and noble black Americans who fought on the side of the Confederacy. Northerners and Southerners eventually find common ground through Redemption and move forward as brothers and sisters in the USA.

1865-1870s–Democratic terrorists called the Ku Klux Klan begin a reign of terror in the South until brave Republicans defeat them.

1906–Using the Antiquities Act, Theodore Roosevelt establishes the National Park System. In one bold stroke Roosevelt establishes Socialist policies that steal land from the American people.

1913–More Socialism and class warfare ushered into the U.S. with the federal income tax system.

1917–America enters and wins World War 1 singlehandedly because the French are cowards.

1929–Great Depression begins. Tens of millions unemployed because of FDR’s failed economic policies. His New Deal introduces the nanny state, prolongs America’s economic collapse, and weakens the economy until Ronald Reagan renews America.

1941–Patriotic Japanese Americans volunteer to place themselves in gated communities so that America will be safe from Imperial Japan.

1941-1945–America enters and wins World War 2 singlehandedly because the French are cowards. Out of necessity, the United States drops atomic bombs on Japan.

1945-1965–A high point in U.S. history, as freedom and prosperity reign over all Americans.

1950–Senator Joseph McCarthy fearlessly highlights how America is infiltrated by communists from Russia and China. Big Hollywood and the liberal establishment are brought to their knees by his brave efforts.

1954–Brown v. Board of Education removes the parental right to send children to the schools of their choice and with the company they desire. A dangerous and unconstitutional era of activist Supreme Court decisions begins.

1955-1968–George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. lead a Civil Rights Movement to ensure that all Americans are judged by “the content of their character and not the color of their skin.”

1964-Barry Goldwater ignites a revolution in Conservative thought and values that resonates to the 21st century.

1968–The cinematic classic The Green Berets starring John Wayne, America’s greatest actor, debuts.

1971–America largely withdraws from Vietnam on the cusp of victory because it was weakened by The Gays, The Women’s Movement, and “The Counter-culture.” The French are cowards whose failure forced the U.S. to intervene in Indochina.

1973–Roe vs. Wade, the worst legal decision in the history of the Supreme Court is decided.

1974-Phyllis Schlafly, pioneer for the rights of women, takes a stand against evil Leftist feminists who want to ban motherhood, force mothers to work at jobs outside the home, join the military, become lesbians, and receive advanced educations which they do not need.

1974–Nixon forced to resign by liberal conspiracy.

1980–Ronald Reagan, America’s greatest president, restores American providence by ushering in a new era of economic prosperity, cutting the federal budget, and corrects the unfair federal tax code in order that the hard work of the richest Americans is justly rewarded.

1989–The Berlin Wall falls. Ronald Reagan wins the Cold War singlehandedly.

1992-2000–Democrat president Bill Clinton in office. His reckless personal behavior and irresponsible foreign policy choices weaken America internationally. The U.S. economy is almost destroyed by his tax policies. His wife Hillary Clinton furthers the march towards Socialism by advocating for free public health care and to destroy the insurance companies that drive us economic growth.

2000–George Bush elected in a landslide.

2001–Terrorists attack America on September 11th. Because of Bill Clinton’s policies, a weakened border, a lax immigration policy, rampant multiculturalism, and the Democrats’ weakening of the military, America is left open to attack.

2003–Dr. King’s vision is finally made real. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court strikes down the reverse discrimination policies of the University of Michigan. Freedom rings across the land.

2003–The country of Iraq, a rogue state, part of the Axis of Evil, and led by the dictator Saddam Hussein–a co-conspirator in the 9-11 attacks–is liberated by President George Bush.

2008-Arizona war hero John McCain introduces Sarah Palin to the world.

2008–Barack Obama is elected. America is in a Constitutional crisis as Obama is unable to prove that he is a U.S. citizen.

2008-the present. Brave Americans begin joining Tea Parties and 9-12 freedom groups. Millions of their members march on Washington DC.. Freedom fighter James David Manning, places Obama on trial in absentia for treason and sedition.

2008–Sarah Palin, mother, governor, author, actress, comedienne and role-model begins here meteoric rise to political stardom. She ushers in an era of robust, common sense approaches to political problems tempered by real American values.

2010–Barack Obama remains President although his rule is illegitimate. Brave patriots such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh continue to lead the people’s resistance against his tyrannical rule.

2010-Patriotic legislatures in Texas and Arizona lead the battle against racial quotas and ethnocentrism as they draft legislation to defend all of America from an unending and unfettered stream of foreign invaders.

TO BE CONTINUED…

APPEASEMENT

For a number of reasons my ability to write this evening is limited, so I will pick the low-hanging fruit of the Stevens retirement. A few things stand out.

First, I was particularly struck by the President's comment about "occupational diversity" on the Court. In the 1980s our political class abandoned the idea of appointing someone other than a career jurist to the high court. The only way to pronounce someone "qualified" was to see pictures of him (or rarely her) wearing robes. This is not only historically unprecedented but also quite silly. Seeing as how the SC does not operate like any other court, thus rendering any need to understand courtroom procedure moot, previous judicial experience is not mandated Constitutionally or practically. Unfortunately, the possible decision to appoint a non-jurist (most likely Solicitor General Elena Kagan) will give the right a ready-made talking point on which to harp. Seeing as how they do not trouble themselves with history or facts they will have no problem overlooking other appointees who had no previous judicial experience, including Clarence Thomas**, William Rehnquist (Asst. Attorney General), Lewis Powell (private practice), Earl Warren (Governor of California), Tom Clark (Attorney General), William O. Douglas (SEC chairman), Felix Frankfurter (law professor), Stanley F. Reed (Solicitor General), Harlan Fiske Stone (Attorney General), Louis Brandeis (private practice), and Charles Evans Hughes (Governor, Secretary of State) among dozens of others. I think some of those guys did alright.

Doing something other than being a judge at some point in one's professional life isn't a terrible idea and is probably a net benefit to the Court. There is no justification, legal or logical, for the recent "farm system" practice of mindlessly calling up the next player from the AAA team that the US District Court of Appeals has become. It might not be a coincidence that so many extraordinary justices were ones who skipped over Appeals and straight to the SC, much as a talented baseball prospect would skip AAA and go straight to the big leagues.

Second, the President would do well to keep in mind that it doesn't matter if he appoints Kagan, some bland Appellate judge, Bill Ayers, or Bill Clinton – the Senate Republicans are going to flip out, crap their collective pants, and start threatening filibusters. This has nothing to do with logic and everything to do with payback time for the health care stuff. Nothing short of letting Mitch McConnell hand-select the nominee will appease them. As usual, the only rational response (and one that no one has the balls to implement) is to call their bluff. Make them filibuster. Let's see if they have it in them to continuously hold the floor for three or four weeks, talking about nothing and rallying public support for their childish temper tantrum. A betting man would put good money on such a stunt backfiring and instead being perceived as obstructionism for its own sake, not to mention generally making Senate Republicans look like the asswipes that most of them are.

Both the President and the nominee have to walk across the flaming coals regardless, so the former might as well pick who he really wants. As usual, though, I expect his choice to be yet another vain effort in the quest for "bipartisanship."

** Thomas was the head of the EEOC for nearly a decade and was appointed to the US District Court of Appeals about 6 months before his SC appointment. So he had next-to-no experience as a jurist.

TRIAGE

I need you to set aside about 30-40 minutes and read this. When I first saw it back in August I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach by the end. A second reading months later, inspired by the chaos in Haiti, had much the same effect. If you're in a hurry it is a lengthy New York Times piece about Memorial Hospital in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It raises ethical issues complex enough to make abortion and the death penalty look like kindergarten topics in comparison.

Several hospital employees, particularly one doctor named Anna Pou, were charged with second-degree murder (and conspiracy to) for allegedly causing the death of a number of non-ambulatory patients with morphine and other sedatives after everyone involved had been trapped in the hospital for four days. A grand jury chosen from a community sympathetic to the doctor ("They did what they had to do! It was a tough situation!") refused to indict, and as the story stands it appears unlikely that any of them will be convicted of a crime. The reality of what happened appears to be a lot more troubling.

Triage is a pretty basic concept in emergency medicine and it originated on Europe's battlefields more than two centuries ago. It is necessary whenever the means to provide care are overwhelmed by the number of people who need it. We see that problem today in Haiti and four years ago in New Orleans. It seems like a very basic concept – do the most good with the limited resources available. But what does that mean? Does it mean treating the most severely injured, who may have little hope for survival? Treating the greatest possible number of patients? The ones with the best chance to survive? (and in whose judgment?) The youngest? The first to arrive? It's not so simple.

After the Hurricane, Memorial Hospital was without electricity or water, filling with backed-up sewage, and in a neighborhood in which gunshots were ringing out with alarming frequency. With dwindling resources (and the need to manually respire patients on ventilators) the doctors did an unorganized triage – there was no official policy in place – to make everything last until the government rescue that they soon learned was not coming. Evacuating patients to a helipad required carrying them down 7 or 8 flights of stairs in the dark, passing them through a 3'x3' hole in a concrete wall, and then carrying them up 5 more to the roof of the parking deck. This presented an obvious challenge to a staff – many of whom were older people who could add little to the manual labor effort – working on no sleep in appalling conditions. Compounding the problem was the apparent hopelessness of several of the patients; it is not hard to see how a 92 year old cancer patient with less than a week to live would seem like a wasted effort under such circumstances.

What resulted was a decision by a few doctors, given that no one seemed to be in charge, to euthanize several patients who were either nearly dead or simply too large to move. In one case that directly led to the second-degree murder charge, an otherwise healthy 350 pound patient who could not walk was euthanized for no reason other than that the doctors did not think he could be moved. Not all of the physicians agreed with these actions; several protested and others left rather than be involved.

That is the best I can do for a brief summary. Two things.

It is easy for us to revel in hindsight bias – we know that they were rescued after the fourth day – and make judgments based on information unavailable to the participants at the time. It's also easy to neglect the context. Before you come to a decision about the morality of their actions, close up the windows, turn the heat up to 90, and stay awake for three days manually pumping a ventilator bag, running from floor to floor in the dark, and caring for 100 dying people. To say that the doctors and nurses involved were not of a mindset to make good decisions is an understatement, especially in light of the paucity of information and outside help coming in.

Then again, their argument falls flat on my ears. It is essentially this: The hospital was being evacuated after several days in horrendous conditions. We could not leave these patients and we could not feasibly move them. What else could we do? It is easy for me to say, not having been present, but my answer is simple: suck it up. That's what you do. You have a moral obligation to provide health care to people regardless of the circumstances. If you have to stand there and manually ventilate people for days on end, do it. If it takes 15 people a full day to get a 350 pound man down the stairs in the dark, so be it. Spend that time suffering and thinking of the six-figure book deal and White House photo op you'll get for telling your heroic story.

The final issue, and the one most commonly ignored, is the prevalence of this kind of "passive euthanasia" in palliative care. All of the opiates they pump into terminal and elderly patients when they are near death…come on. Who is naive enough to see that as anything but what it really is? It is ostensibly about patient comfort, and to some extent it is. But it is really about convenience – about getting on with the inevitable so time and resources can be devoted to patients with some chance to survive. Even in non-emergency situations this mentality prevails. And who can blame medical professionals for that? The staff of Memorial Hospital were right to wonder why in the hell the hospital had a floor full of people in their nineties hooked up to ventilators and heart-lung machines. That is, to all but the bleedingest of hearts, a complete waste.

We comfort ourselves with advanced care directives, living wills, powers of attorney, and codes of medical ethics, believing strongly that these things will govern our end-of-life decisions. And they do, except when reality intervenes and removes us from the world in which resources are limited only by what we and our insurer will bear financially. When the capacity to provide care becomes a zero-sum game it is only natural that "turkeys" with no long-term prospects for survival will go to the bottom of the priority list. But whether triage decisions should account for doctors' convenience or their impressions, made under duress, of what is feasible is a much more troubling question.