The Breakfast Table

Why Isn’t Everyone More Cynical?

Good morning, Peter:

Sitting here on the north shore of Long Island gazing out at the water on a pristine summer day. Birds are chirping, the morning sun shimmers over the bay when, in an instant, the entire scene is obliterated by the deafening roar of two 45-foot cigarette power boats, their mammoth engines blaring at ear-shattering Wide-Open Throttle. And it occurred to me: Here, my friend, is a perfect symbol of why so much of the world hates our guts these days.

Now I confess, I love boats and the notion of speed on the water is not altogether distasteful to me. But the profligate consumption of a cigarette boat is beyond the pale. Costing upward of $250,000, they guzzle around $200 an hour in gas, depending on the horsepower they’re packing. You can’t ski behind a cigarette boat or do any other kind of recreational boating activity. All you can do is go fast, make lots of noise, and disrupt the lives of everyone in the vicinity. “Penis extenders” is what a friend calls them. Despite the slump in the market and all the other economic bad news these days, they’re proliferating around here.

Appropriately enough, one of the first people to popularize these giant, high-speed phalluses was George Bush Sr. He used it up in Maine, to go “fishing.” Let me tell you, trying to fish off a cigarette boat is like trying to dance on a sloped tile roof. Just look at last week’s picture of George Bush Jr. on his father’s boat, awkwardly struggling to haul in a striped bass off the bow. Who says our president isn’t into conservation?

Certainly not the mothers in Escravos, Nigeria. Did you see that story yesterday? Hundreds of women in the Niger Delta have shut down most of Chevron Texaco’s oil operations in the country for nearly a week by occupying the company’s depots. They want jobs for their kids, roads, water, and schools for their region—which is one of the poorest in Nigeria, despite the fact that its oil makes Nigeria the world’s sixth-largest oil exporter. Can you imagine the gall? Can you imagine the suffering they’re causing to all those cigarette boat operators out there who depend on Nigeria’s oil (20 percent of our imports) to keep their gas guzzlers guzzling?

Perhaps I’m cynical, but I don’t understand why everyone else isn’t more cynical. Another story in the paper described how the Republicans are planning on using the estate tax as a major campaign issue in their fight for control of Congress. They’re attacking Democratic congressmen who voted in favor of Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut but against the permanent repeal of the estate tax. Doesn’t anybody realize the only people who benefit from repealing the estate tax are the super rich? The $750 billion hole in the budget a repeal is estimated to cost is going to have to come from somewhere. Explain it to me.